Life as a falconer, insect systematist, and double Masters Student (or a look into the mind of someone who is questionably sane).

31 December 2006

let it snow let it snow let is STOP

Been an adventure the last couple of days. So we left for New Mexico on the 28th. The weather looked like it would be really bad the entire northern route so we decided to head south and take I10. I had fun playing with my GPS, there's a cool feature where you can pick a destination, like a city or waypoint then it will give you a running eta and milage to it. That kept me occupied for most of the drive. The first 1/2 of the drive wasnt' too bad, but when we hit Wilcox it started to snow. We stopped for lunch at tacobell/kfc place and grabbed food to go. We started checking the weather on dad's new cell phone every few min. Again, leave it to the dumb wildlifer to figure out how to zoom in on the radar. Wish I had internet on my phone, and dad was trying to figure out a way to justify keeping it after the month trial was up. At one point we had a little excitment because we got pulled over. But rather than giving us a ticket the cop asked if we were all US citizens. Apparenlty we looked suspisous in our van which he claims was riding low. I think he realized we were not illegals trying to make it across the border when he looked inside and saw a couple laptops and more elecronics than the average household strewn around the van. We were sent on our way without further delay. It started snowing in earnest once we were heading north on I25. We got to Albuquerque and by now it was snowing pretty steadily. Patty called and said they'ed closed the highway to santa fe just north of town so we turned around and went to her house. She had some turkey on the porch (everyone keeps all their food on the porch during the winter) so we had that for dinner, and watched some tv. There was a show on BBQ, and they taked about Sonny's (the greatest BBQ ever, except for sweetwater up in Misourri. The next morning we awoke to discover 6 inches or so of snow. The highway was still closed so we got to sleep in. It was nice to sleep as long as we wanted without worrying about missing anything since there was nothing to do. The day was spent shoveling snow and maria made a snow bunny in the drive way. We also watched coyotes playing in the snow in the field behind Patty's house. For dinner we had a bean soup with passole pieces in it. Very good. Based on the roads we decided there wasn't much chance of getting back to santa fe and me driving to College Station, so we bought a plane ticket to fly into houston. I was able to get one that left at 8am or so saturday. So I got all my stuff ready even though we knew there was really no chance of that flight making it out. I was woken up saturday at about 6 to discover that shockingly enough my flight was canceled. I told mom to call and see if they could reschedule it and luckily she did right away as I was able to get put on a flight for the next day that got totally booked minuets later. I went back to bed then christa called to tell me it was snowing in carlsbad. I told her id send her somemore snow, we had more than enough of it to go around. I called aubrey to let her know the new plan then went back to sleep only to be awakened by mom calling to see if i had called aubrey. except i though she was asking if it was sunny outside. i was rather confused by this since i was sleeping in the dark and she had an open window shade in her room. what made it super amusing was she has no memory of calling me. Once we finally all got up we spent most of the day shoveling snow. We finished pattys driveway then got volunteered to shovel all of her neighors. O well it wasn't like there was anything else to do. You can only watch so much TV. We went to church and almost got stuck in the parking lot. Church was nice, the servers were quite disiplined. I like it when servers keep their hands folded the entire time, it looks so much nicer than the ones that dont. Other than that just played around on the computer and made snow angels at cammacks suggestion. Eddie did his in shorts and a tshirt, i think hes crazy, since it was 17f. after he did it he jumped up and started freaking out he was so cold. before going inside my dad whipped us off with a towl to get as much of the snow off as possible, it was amusing. Hes like ive wanted to do this for years.

Sunday was spent flying back to TX. Patty took me to the airport- it was very exciting because she got me though the check in line and security line using her employee badge so we spent no time in line. We grabbed breakfast buritios inside secruity and she hung around with me until she needed to go to work. My plane was running way late out of abq, but at least southwest was still flying. Some of the others were grounded because they had run out of deicing fluid. Not sure how that happens since all the planes had been grounded fo so long there should have been more than enough. Odd. We finally boarded and took off. The flight out was really cool since everything was totaly white and covered with snow. Took some cool pictures of the mountians and roads. Then i realized i could use my GPS on board also, so that became my new toy. We landed in El Paso and I hung around there until it was time for my houston flight. We were running a little late out of there but not bad. I landed in houston and Aubrey was circleing for me. She picked me up and we went to REI. I wandered around some then found the perefect backpack- it was blue and had tons of compartments and was made for electronics. It was exactly what I wanted so I bought it to replace my old one. We grabbed mcdonalds and headed for college station and JACs new years party.

27 December 2006

Orange County- not the one you see on the show, but rather the one where you occasionally wonder if your going to get killed in drive by

We left for California on Saturday. I decided to leave my truck in Santa Fe to save some gas money. I slept a good chunk of the drive. We went the northern route. The worst part though was that eddies muon detector kept pulling too much power off the inverter which would trip the warning buzzar. This lasted for 3 hrs by which point I was ready to pull the inverter out of the cigarettee lighter and throw it out the window. I kept asking why didnt he run 2 inverters- one for the laptop and one for the dector. But come on what would a dumb Ag. major know about electrons? So they ignored my suggestions. By the time we stopped for lunch I was about ready to request to continue the journy as a hood ordiment just to be away from the beeping. I suggesed for the tenth time using both inverters and I guess just to make me drop it they tried it after both dad and eddie said it wouldn't work. Well the silence was deafening after they tried my suggestion. So what does a dumb ag major know about electronics? Apparently more than a double e and a physics freak. Figures. The rest of the drive was pretty easy, although the FedEx guy we were had been following for most of the trip lost control of his rig and flipped a mile or two infront of us. Hopefully hes ok. We rolled into Cali pretty late, and stood by the fire attempting to get warm. We unloaded a bit then went to bed. The 24th was spent doing last miniute (or really 1st minuet since its when we did all of it) shopping. Of course we went to Barnes and Nobel for our traditional book exchange. This year we basicly picked out what we wanted and bought it for eachother. After that we went to Linens and things where eddie discovered his new favorite toy- a salad spinner. If we hadn't have already bought him Wikinomics I think he would have gotten that for christmas. Hes one strange kid. Back in Anaheim we unloaded the van and then Dad and I headed out to riverside to meet up with Herady. We only got lost once on the way out there- the directions I got from yahoo told me to get of on a street that didn't have an exit. O well, we made it to Herady's house. Met his wife then went to UCR to see the collection. The campus is pretty cool looking, with orange groves all over, orange groves remind me of falbrook when i was a kid. We went into the building that houses collections, it apparently has an alarm on it when you actually enter the collection room. There wasn't anyone there so it was armed when we entered and the countdown began. Herady entered his code a couple times but no luck and the alarm went off. For some reason i wasn't suprised at all. So he called campus police and told them it was him and not to send the police. Glad we don't have one of those on our collection, i think it would get set of daily. They have compactors like INHS does, but UCRs are hand moved. We opened up the leafhopper section and I looked for my genus. No Xyphon, but after a bit of searching found them under Carneocephala. They have 6 of the 8 species in my group. I then poked around in the undetermined stuff and found some Xyphon determined by Chris. Some of the labels were Timberlake labels- the only person that woolley knows who has worse writing than i do. Infact Woolley was conserned about me going to UCR, seeing this guys writing and realizing I could make mine even more illegible and set that as a goal. Then Herady decided that my dad needed an introduction to real bugs showed him some parasitoids. There was a poster that had them large and acutal size so we started there then moved onto some actual specimens. As I told dad at least you can see my bugs and not get them confused with dust particles. Next we walked over to the new ento building and toured the Herady Lab. I aquired a new bumper sticker- it has a Fulgorid on it and says UCR, they had found some in a box somewhere and Herady had one by his door, which promptly became mine. Dad got to see more wasps including some Euchardids. He thought those were pretty cool (I have to admit to liking them too, probably because JAC (Cammack) and I use to catch them at light on dominica). Maria called at one point to say theyd found Alaskan Amber at the grocery store and did I want that or Shiner. I told them go for the Amber, but Herady didnt realize we were talking about beer (what kind of Hymenopterist doesnt recognize beer talk when they hear it) and said Alaskan Amber is worthless cause it doesnt have any chalcidoids in it. I looked at him funny and said i hope there are no chalcidoids in my beer and he realized we were discussing beer not fossils. Rather funny. I got to see a picture of Woolley's major prof who apparently had a teacup Chichuahua named Frankinstein aka Frankie that use to come to class and sit in the prof's coat pocket (this was the motivation for Woolley's christmas present last year from JAC and I). On the way back to Heradys house we stopped at a shop so he could pick up a christmas present. After we took him home dad and I headed back to Anaheim. We went to Christmas Mass, pretty low key as usual. Then went home and watched TV. Christmas was prety low key, we didn't even open presents until almost noon. I got a desk lamp (nice and bright and very exciting because I hate dim lights), a far side calender, a book about the theory behind how to color maps, a power converter for other countries, and best of all a GPS. The rest of the time in California was spent seeing a few relatives and going to the beach- always a cold afair. Me and eddie had fun with the sea gulls. Hed pick one he wanted a picture of and id engineer a flush so he could get a picture in flight. Some of them turned out really cool looking.

24 December 2006

Its official

So I woke up at about 630. Was suppose to be at Heep at 7. Got dressed for graduation- blue jeans, blue shirt, blue socks, blue everything- trust me. It wasnt planned, just happened, but hey blue is my favorite color so i guess its not unexpected. Blue runs my life really- I have to use blue toothpaste and a blue toothbrush. I also use blue soap and shampoo (the lids are even blue). So I guess saying i like blue is a bit of an understatement. But yall arn't reading this entry to learn about how monochromatic my life is, but rather to see if I actually was allowed to graduate or not. So after putting on my blue ensamble, I grabed my hat (both my blue p-fund hat and my bugified graduation hat) and ran out the door, only to realize that I would probabily need my black gown deal if I expected to actually walk. So back inside to find the thing. Luckily it was where I though it might be- Maria's closet after being used as a Harry Potter opening night costume. Back in the truck and sped over to Heep for the graduation breakfast. Everyone else was already there and had already been introduced to Woolley, Wharton, and Oz so that spared me the need to. I showed off my hat and woolley and wharton scored it. They threatened to deduct some points for a bug missing antenna and also for the elytra, but I think I prevailed. I ate some sausuage out of the pigs and a blanket deal and talked to cammack for a bit. The breakfast started to break up and everyone else headed off to Reed. Woolley and I signed the INHS loan form for my bugs and then he left. I waited around for Cammack then figured I should probabily head to reed since it was almost 830. I walked to my truck to grab the gown and cammack called me to see where I was. I met him in front of the building and we walked over to Reed. He decided to sit with my family so I had to call them and figure out where they were but we got it straightend out ok. We parted ways and I headed upstairs where the ag people were. I got up there and found out I got a honors deal since I was a research fellow. So I checked in with Mandi, discovered that Andy had also came to line us up. So I talked to Andy for a little bit, it was really cool that he came also. I gave my stuff to Kyle then ran back downstairs to find the honors people. Got it then back up the stairs. At this point we were all lined up and started heading down to the floor. We walked in and I looked all around trying to figure out where they were sitting. I was talking to them on the phone and texting like crazy. Eddie and I started texting diseases to eachother such as Ebola, Ecoli, Anthrax, and Infulenza. It was quite amusing. Once I sat down I was able to figure out where they were sitting since they were taking a bunch of pictures and so kept telling me to look at them. Balancing the boxobugs was kinda tricky and it was rather heavy so I took the lid off so at least there was less weight. The speakers were pretty good. At one point they asked for all the vetrans to stand up so I was able to look up and see grandpa ike standing, that was pretty cool. The intro was right off the program, almost word for word. Pretty soon I got board and read the entire program and then started playing games looking for different patterns in the book. I was also texting with Aubrey and eventually spotted her. They went through ENTO first, so got to yell for a couple of my friends that were graduating in that group. Then it was time for the wildlifers to go. We stood up and walked over to the other side and started walking up. We got stopped by the ento people so I got to talk to them for a bit. I told them after I walked I'd come back and sit with them til the end since realistically more of my close friends were over there than with wildlife. As i walked up to the stage I heard them call my name and announce that I was graduating with honors as a reserach fellow. It was very exciting. I walked up and shook Gate's hand as they took a picture. So I had my deploma handed to me by the secretary of defence. How cool is that. He signed it also. I walked through and shook all the random people's hands. A bunch of them asked what was in the box on my head and I told them it was part of my insect collection. They seemed to be amused by that. I walked down the steps and was greated by a couple of wildlife profs- slack and gelwick I think, but it was all a blur. Then I saw that the ento profs had stuck around also. I was really excited to see that. Oslen, Teal, and Heniz were all down there along with a couple that I didn't know. Ento actually had a better represntation than wildlife did. I hugged them all and went back to my seat to gather my stuff. I got a text from cammack through maria that said "hell just froze over". So true on a couple different levels. after a few min of congradulating my fellow wildlifers I went over to ento and sat with DiAngela and the rest of them. We talked through the rest of graduation and then all walked out together after a fianl word from Gates. We were the last group he was graduating, hes shooken over 40,000 hands over his time here, but we were his last. That was really cool. Once out DiAngela and I walked towards where our families should be and eventually found them. I got congradualted and hugged by everyone, guess its official now, i'm a college graduate. Scary aint it? We met up with Mika (who arrived shortly before the end) and Aubrey, then started to head back to heep. Cammack stayed to help DiAngela's family find eachother then met up with us shortly there after. We walked back to Heep, while dad and grandpa went to get the car. Mika and Aubrey headed to biocontrol and it was picture time. Mom tried to take a picture of me and Cammack, finally after the 3rd time it worked. Then they tried for a picture of all of us, but the wrong lens was on the camera so in order for it to work cammack had to be almost at ground level and all of us 30 ft away. Typical catanach camera debacle. Grandpa said no pictures of him cause he was an indian and to take his picture you have to pay a fee. We then headed off to HiKu, the Japanese place I wanted to go to. I rode over with Cammack and we met everyone plus Steven, Dasiy, and Aubrey over there. Mandi showed up after a few min too and we ordered. I got my traditional bento box with terioki beef and 8 california rolls instead of sushi. They came with avacados as always so I used cammacks chopstick to de avacado them. Its become tradition to do so, and even with other options it was the one we used. I think everyone else though we were crazy but o well. Lunch was great fun and was wonderful as always. Everyone pretty much knew everyone there so that made it easy. Daisy and Steven brough me flowers and a balloon and Mandi got me a pair of boots. Grandpa Ikie wasn't quite sure what to make of the japanese food so we got some good pictures of him inspecting it before maria's camera ran out of batteries. Daisy then took some pictures of me and my family. By now everyone was done and my family needed to get back on the road since they were going home. I got a ride back to Heep with Cammack then decided to run home to put my bugs away. I got home just as everyone else was about to leave so said good by to everyone then headed back to Heep after putting my bug hat in the deep freeze. I put my new bugs along with the ones I had taken up north for ID in my cabinet- which now has a full set of drawers. After a while Cammack came back and we attempted to get some work done. I got hungery and we decided it was time for dinner. Cammack said hed fix something, so we went to the store and got some beens and meat. He cooked it all up while I had a Sam Adams (I was reintroduced to it up north and now its one of my new favorites). Dinner was great as it always is when Cammack cooks for me. I also got my first introduction to a spoon holder. Its this little deal that you put on the stove and rest spoons your using to stir or whatever on it so they dont drip on the stove. It was pretty cool. He was in shock that I'd never seen one before so I called my parents and told them about it. They agreed I'd never seen one since Grandma Mary'd never used one as far as they knew and I didn't do much in Grandma Stella's kitchen (who did have one). The concept is quite facinating to me although I think its easier just to balance it on a pot or make someone else hold it. After dinner he took me back to Heep and I went home and was asleep pretty fast since I hadn't gotten much over the last week. Sunday was prety uneventful, went to Mass then tried to figure out what I would need for my Guatemala trip. Got a little bit of work done and got together with Cammack for a bit before heading to Dallas.
Monday and Tuesday were filled with Drs Apointments- physical, dental, and eyes. Great times. I hate doctors. I got the 2nd of my Hep-B series so that made it even more exciting. I hate needles. Other than that just hung around the house played with the dogs and all the normal home stuff. I went up to the Heard for a bit and saw some of my friends up there. Found out Debbie died a few days before. That was pretty sad to hear, she was always so nice to me and asking after my family. They have a new exhibit- anamatronic dinosaurs. It was pretty cool looking.
We headed out to New Mexico on Thursday mid morning. It was a typical Catanach exit- hurried and hours later than planned. Me and Eddie were in my truck following the renta van. The drive was pretty easy, weather was good almost the whole way, except for a little bit of ice in Clines Corners. We stayed in Albequerque for the night at Patty's. We were greated with Pasole (kept on the porch as is tradition) and chicarones- not pork skins like people here think they are but rahter balls of fried pork fat. Heavenly. I must have eaten 50 of them before deciding it was time for bed. I slept on the couch and was woken up by Patty's dog jumping on me. Tiny little dog, very soft. I needed to pick up my upgraded permit so got dirrections to Fish and Wildlife and drove over to the building. I walked up only to have to go back to my truck and unload my pockets since apparently you can't take knifes into a federal building. I finally deweaponed myself and was allowed to enter the building. I took the elevator up to the 14th floor then wandered aimlessly in hopes of finding Camilies office. I eventually figured out where it was hiding and went in. I met God herself and actually sat down for some coffee and cookies with her. She was quite funny and apparently has 2 JRTs that the spoils. I spent about 30 min talking to her before realizing I was suppose to meet Maria, Eddie, Grandpa, and Patty for lunch. So I left and met everyone at Golden Corral. I had the shrimp as always- must have eaten a plate full. We drove back to Santa Fe, Eddie and I following Grandpa and Maria. It was a bit of an adventure since we got seperated a couple times but we managed to figure out how to get home. Chaco didn't attack me as I went in so i figure thats a step in the right direction. We spent most of the day doing nothing, as seems to be our past time in Santa Fe. It was nice to sit still and watch TV for a change. We went to PCs for dinner, my mom and I did the bar run since there was a pretty long line for tables. I had a Negra Modelo which my dad thought was pretty nasty. I don't know why he doesn't like them I think there pretty good. I had an enchilada, sopapias, and natias for dinner. Nice to have real new mexican food again. You cant find a decent sopapia in Texas, enchiladas are differnt and people think your crazy when you ask for natias.

16 December 2006

So you though I was joking about possibly not making it back in time for graduation?

Friday I went into the lab and spent most of the morning making copies of lit to take back to texas. Cammack had to turn in my tuition rebate form so I talked him through the signature foraging and form filling out while making copies. My flight was suppose to leave around noon so chris said wed leave about an hour before then. After making copies I looked at bugs and spent some time just digging through the collection. Dani came in shortly before I left and I got some reprints from her. So between those, all the books and other lit I'd gotten from Chris I had to do some serious rearranging of my luggage. Then I had to load up the specimens I'd gotten on loan and fit those into my backpack also. Chris helped me carry all my stuff into the airport then left for a retirement lunch. I had Dani's number incase I had trouble getting the pinned material through security. I checked in and found out my plane was running 30 min late. No big deal since I had a 2 hr layover in chicago before catching a flight to dallas. Security was closed so I grabbed lunch (a brautwust) and watched the news until security finally opened. I made it through with no problems and found a seat at my gate. This airport is bigger than the college station airport but not by much. There was an announcement saying the plane was now an hour late and that someone would be avilable to assist us shortly. Well I sat around and noone appeared. Another 30 min passed and another announcement, this time saying it was now 2 hrs late and someone would be coming at assist. I called my parents and told them things might get a bit interesting and maybe they should leave a truck for me in dallas incase i couln't fly to college station. After waiting for the desk person for a while I gave up and took a nap. When I woke up I called Woolley to tell him my quest was successful and Cammack to just see what was up and tell him my plane might be running way late. I dozed back off to sleep and when I awoke there was actually someone at the desk. Only an hour so so after they said there would be someone. So I went up to the counter and asked the status of my connecting flights. The guy said my flight to dallas was running 30 min late so I should make the connection. Apparently the radar at O'hare was down and thats what was causing the delays. They called us for boarding and I gathered all my gear and got on the plane. I was still rather concerned about the connection since it was going to be pretty tight. If i missed the flight to dallas then I would miss the last flight to college station also. Not good since I had a meeting with the secretary of defense at 9am the next morning. I called my parents and cammack to tell them i was leaving Urbana, so there was at least a hope of me getting to A&M. The flight was uneventful, rested up for what I figured would be a pretty stressful fight to get on the dfw bound plane. The flight attendant came by shortly before landing and I found out what gate my connecting flight was out of. I looked it up and it was quite far from where we were landing. As soon as we touched down I called my mom to check the status of the connecting flight. It was suppose to be leaving in 15 min. Getting off the plane took a while since I was near the back and people were moving super slow. I tried to push past as many as possible but not much luck. I was practically bouncing off the walls trying to get out. I made it into the terminal and started running in what I hoped was the right dirrection. I had a couple boxes of bugs on loan so I was trying to run gently in hopes of not knocking them off their points. I checked the status as I ran by a monitor and I had 5 min before it was suppose to leave. I kept running, narrowly avoiding hitting old ladies or strolleres. They do get in the way though. I ran over to a counter and asked if they could call the other terminal or something to let them know i was on my way but she said she had a plane to start boarding so no. Nice. I kept running. Just as I though I was going to die I saw the sign for the terminal I needed to be in. Of course my gate was almost the entire way down the terminal. I looked at my watch and I was out of time. I sprinted up to the gate and saw a huge crowd of people. Good i thought theyre just boarding now. So I asked a guy if this was the flight to Dallas and he said nope, its boarded this is for the next flight out. At this point I was freaking out and ran up to the counter. I handed the ticket person my boarding pass just as they were paging Therese Catanach, final call we're closing the doors. So I guess I had about 3 seconds to spare- plenty of time. So I called the parents and Cammack to tell them I was on the plane, not much telling really, mostly just panting. Guess I need to run more. I slept most of the flight down to dallas, then read a couple of the articles Dani had given me. Since we were running a bit late out of Chicago I figured i wouldn't have a very long layover in dallas but that I should have plenty of time to go between flights. Honestly, even 30 min would seem like eternity compared to O'Hare. Plus I know that airport a little better. Landed, rode the skytram or whatever over to my next gate, and walked leasurely down the terminal. As I approached my gate I wondered if Andrea had made it back ok. I looked up and low and behold Andrea was at the gate. Odd since she was suppose to get back to A&M a few hrs before me. Turns out her flight had gotten canceled after the piolet didnt show up. There were a bunch of people stuck hoping to get onto my flight. She said a group of people were trying to get down for graduation so had rented a van together and were going to drive down. My plane was running a bit late, and they kept changing gates. We must have walked between the 3 or so gates 6 times before they finally picked the right one and let us board. It didnt look like Andrea was going to get on since she was number 6 on the stand by list. The flight down to college station was fast and pretty uneventful. I sat next to a guy who was coming back from antartica. Hed spent the last 40 hrs or something like that on planes or boats trying to get home. We landed and I gathered up my checked bags. Maria and Eddie picked me up and we drove by Heep so I could drop off my bugs. We met up at Ozonas for dinner. They had just gotten into town. Dinner was great and it was nice to be back in sweet home college station drinking a shiner. I actually looked up the shiner distribution map and discovered that mishigan would be the closest place to urbana to get shiner. Have to buy it in bulk i guess. After dinner I went back to the house to get ready for the actual graduation. I had to get my hat ready. During Aubrey and Mikas graduation I had had this idea to put an entire 301 insect collection on my hat. So I had my work cut out for me. Luckily I have tons of mounted specimens to choose from that I had prepared over the last 3 years. I started by finding 2 clean A trays and then pulled out the sorted and labeled drawers. I went through and picked the smallest bugs from the various families. After thinking about it a bit more I decided to try and limit it to as few orders as possible since the ordinal pen and label took up additional space. After some trial and error I managed to get enough Hemiptera, Coleoptera, Neuroptera, Hymenotptera, and Diptera onto my hat to have a complete collection. It was in phylogenetic order (oviously) and all the specimens were in decent condition. I scored it and assuming I got no deductions for the fact that one of the beetles was missing an elytra it would be exactly 100 (including extra credits from when I took it). I was quite proud. I then glued a mailer onto the hat and put the 2 A-trays in the mailer and put the cover over it. By now it was close to 2 am and time to get some sleep.

15 December 2006

Houston (well actually College Station) we have a genus

Thursday was spent at the natural history survey. I spent the morning looking at leafhoppers in the genera that were picked out yesterday. Chris looked through the bugs I brought back from Dominica and put names on most of them. One of them is an endimic genus so that was pretty cool. Once Dmitiv came in he showed me how to use 3i a computer program he developed. It's pretty cool and easy to use. I also met Chris's other post doc. Dani and Jamie came in and said there was a dept. christmas party so we went to that for lunch. It was in a different building on the other side of campus so we drove over with Dani. I met some more grad students and a few of the profs. The dept is small compared to A&M but more and more I'm realizing how huge we are compared to everywhere else. After we ate Chris and I walked back to the Survey through campus. Campus is quite nice, there's a small corn field in it thats the oldest crop experiment station. When they were working on some buildings they actually made sure they wouldn't block the sun when done. Pretty cool. Back at the survey I was given the task of making a key for Xyphon based on the characters Nottingham used for his 1932 paper. That kept me busy for a bit. Once I was done Dmitiv showed me how to make a phylogony based on the data I'd put in so I did that then walked in and told Chris my MS was done heres my trees and a key. The rest of the afternoon I just looked at bugs. Chris went home and made lasaunga for the lab pot luck at Dmitrivs then came back to the lab and picked me up. Dinner was great, almost everyone in the lab was there. They discovered I was a falconer so I gave them the typical falconer story. There was a grad student christmas party after the pot luck that dani and jamie were going to. Chris suggested I go too and said hed leave the house open for me. So I got a ride with Dani and her boyfriend. First we had to stop at the liquor store- Dani wanted to stop at this one across town even though there were ones of the same chain right by Dmitrivs. So we went to the one she wanted and split up to buy our posions of choice. They didn't have any Shiner so i went with a 6-pack of Lonestar. Strange you can buy lonestar but not shiner. I even asked at the counter and they said they didnt sell shiner anywhere in Illinois. This could be a major issue. We drove to the party and went in. I recognized a lot of people from ESA and met a couple new people. We had a good time- it was a gift exchange and I actually got some gifts, one from dani and one from a girl in the dept. The highlight though was for Emilee, a grad student working on psocids. Dani got her a messenger bag, dog t-shirt, and thong all with Psocids are so cool writen on them. Typical ento nerds. By now I was getting pretty tired so I caught a ride home with Emilee and her roommate. On the way out they started talking to some other people at the party and i started looking around. There was a bottle of wine with a picture on the label which just called gyrfalcon. I walked over and sure enough it was a white gyr on the fist. Absolutly beautiful. So I had to find out whose it was and where they got it. I figure it was whoever owned the house so asked around for them, went and asked and they didn't know. But jamie was standing right there and said hed bought it after hearing me talk about falconry. Its a CA wine. Ill have to get some if i can find it. The label was so cool. Nothing like a hooded white gyr. The ride home was a bit of an adventure since they didn't know exactly where chris lived and I as usual was of little help when it came to such matters. Luckily dani gave them good enough directions to get them on the right street and I could recognize the house. The light on was a tip off also. Been forever since I've had a light left on for me. Went inside and played with the dog (Junior) for a bit. I guess Susan has decided the dog was trustworthy enough to leave with me unattended. Appearntly he doesnt like some people and snaps at them so he was kept in the basement for the 1st couple days I was around. Then yesterday Chris figured we may as well see what the dog would do so he gave me some dog treats and opened the door. Junior ran in and ate the treats then ran off. Susan was happy to see I still had all my fingers when it was over. I figured I'd already been attacked by one dog in my life what were the chances of a second.

13 December 2006

more conference

I woke up bright and early to take my phys test. According to the girls i was staying with behmer might be running a little late since they left the bar at 3 and he was still there. Sure enough, no behmer. Waited a while then called him around 830. No answer. Medina came by and said if he saw him hed tell him i had been diligently studying all morning. Behmer called me at 9 and said hed be another hr so i went to some presentations before taking my final at about 11. After the final I went to lunch with Jamie and Dani. We went to the mall as usual. Talked bugs a bit (shocking I know). Turns out Dani was the one that changed the name of the glassy wing sharpshooter. She gave me a reprint so I'll have to read it to let Amanda know what was going on. It was a priority issue as expected. Gotta love priority. After lunch I pretty much went to talks, played on the internet and toured the exhibit hall again. There were the finals for the linnean games so I went to that. Its amazing how obscure some of those questiosn are seriously who knows this stuff? After that was the awards ceremony- Jamie won the systematics poster session so that was exciting. After the awards was the student mixer. I went for a bit- ate some food, drank some beer, and talked to a bunch of A&M people along wtih some old Ags. Me and Andrea then decided to head to the International Soceity of Hymenopterists Meeting. Even though I dont really work on hymenoptera those guys are usually funny as hell so i figured id go to the meeting. Andrea decided as we were walking out to go to the biocontrol mixer instead so i went to the ISH meeting by myself. I got there just as the business meeting started so that part was rather unexciting. After it was finished i said hi to Heraty then went to talk to Kajia from Morphbank to set up a time to meet and go over some data stuff. She was talking to someone else so i waited around for a bit. She ended up following Heraty out, still talking to the person so i just went along also. I started talking to Heraty and when we got to the lobby for the Hyett hes like yall want to come up for drinks? So the 4 of us went up to his room. Kajia went to go get more glasses from her room while the other guy, Micahal Gates and I went with Heraty. Heraty introduced us and told Gates i was woolley's newest victem. Gates poured us drinks- he and i finished off what was left of the scotch while heraty broke into the wild turkey. Heraty pulled up his comptuer ands like the real reason to come was cause were nerds and he was going to show us his presentation from another meeting. He opened up a file and said hed hit the high points. It was about Eucharidids- specifically the ones wtih spines that people though were used to carry them around by ants. He acutally had a video of ants picking up the bugs and moving them around. It was pretty cool. Kajia showed back up with a glass and Heraty offered her her choice between scotch and wild turkey not reallizing the scotch was gone so she got her choice between wild turkey and wild turkey. Since we really are all nerds we talked mainly about morphbank and MX vs 3i (all programs used in ento). After while Gates said that a bunch of guys were over at this bar down the street so him, Kajia, and I went over there. I met Jim Carpenter along with a few other hymenopterists. Turns out some of the Illinois people were over there too, Jamie came over to say hi. There was also a curator from some collection that sat with us. He plays the harmonica and talked about that for quite a while. Apparently harmonicas are rather difficult to play correctly, so he was telling us about that. Apparently Hymenoptera and music go hand in hand since everyone there was talking music- either instruments or sound systems/albums. Never would have guessed such a lowly order would have such cultured workers (we like to trade insults between workers in the various orders).

I actually slept in a few min on wensday instead of being up at the crack of dawn. I had actually planned on being up early, but plans change quickly at these meetings. So instead i got up, packed my stuff then checked out. I carried my stuff over to Hyett then checked it into the luggage room there. They didnt seem concerned that I didnt actually stay there the night before or maybe the just didnt notice. Either way I was excited. I went to a couple presentations before it was lunch time. The plan was for all the Auchenorrhynca people to go to lunch together, but Dmetiv had gone into the exhibit hall and everyone else left while chris, jamie, and I went to find him. After wandering the exhibit hall we found him and in the process heard about a mexican place Jamie had found last night and wanted to try. He wasnt quite sure where it was but thought it was behind a hotel. We decided to try and find it and went of in that direction. After walking a bit in the direction he thought it was Jamie decided he actually didn't know where it was so we went back to Alcatraz for lunch with the rest of the group . Walking in we ran into Randy and Andrea, but they were giving up on the wait and going somewhere else. We went in and while we waited Dmetriv took a group picture. They found a big table to stick us at and we ordered. I got fish and chips. I was talking about Dominica when the guy across from me said his nephew went to dominca last year also. Turns out i was sitting with karls uncle whos a dipterist. Small world. After lunch it was time for the last of the presentations including the auchenorrhynca ones. So we all headed back for those which were quite good. Most of it was more higher level phylogonys. After these were over I went and grabbed my stuff then we walked to the car. I took a picture of a factory and the cranes. Chris though that was amusing, but what can i say I like old factories and i have a thing for cranes- the bigger the better. I think me, jamie, and Dmetiv all fell asleep for part of the drive home, and i woke up to hear that chris had found a genus for me- Xyphon. There was also a second genus that was possible to, but Xyphon was more promissing. Its fairly small but is monophyletic and looks like it has potential. Back in Urbana we dropped off Jamie and Dmetiv then headed to the house. We unloaded our stuff then chris ordered a couple pizzas. I apparently got his daughter sick before we left for the meeting. Chris went to get the pizza and some beer while i played around on the internet- found some random wireless signal to grab onto i love people who dont secure their wireless points. After dinner Chris and I went to the lab. He got me set up in the working lab wiht a scope and I looked at some material he had ided earlier from the potential genera. We left around 10, went home and watched the Daily Show. After that Chris went to bed and I watched the Colbert Report before going up to my room. Got online and talked to JAC for a while then went to sleep.

11 December 2006

Presentations and way too many good times

As seems to be typical for this conference Monday started way to early. My presentation was one of the 1st ones so I went over to the convention center shortly after 730. I needed up upload a more recent version of my presentation since when I attempted to do it the day before the server crashed and since it was time for the room to close anyway the confex people decided not to mess with it. Got my new version up with plenty of time and went over to my room to check and make sure it got refreshed so the newest version was what would come up when I opened my presentation. This new set up is so nice, basically there is a centralized server that holds everything and each room computer is linked to that. Any changes in the preview room are instantly put on the server and the moderator just refreshes the computer to get the latest presentation. Now things can be loaded minuets before the session starts or even during the session (although authors are told to do it the day before or we cant guarantee itll work). I wandered the halls looking for people I knew until it was time to start the session. This year was a bit different than last since none of my profs could come. Woolley and Wharton skipped the meeting all together and Oz was judging presentations in on of the other sessions. A&M was still well represented though since Medina, David, Andrea, and some of the other grad students showed up. Chris and his lab were there (minus Dani who though I was at 940 not 840) along with all the Fulgoroid people and some additional grad students from Champaign. There were also a bunch of random people who came, so there were probably 30-40 people, not too bad for an early talk. My presentation went pretty well I think, didn’t talk too fast although I butchered the pronunciations of a fair number of names I don’t think it was too big of a deal. The goal is just sound like you know how to say them and most people won’t realize you got it wrong and most of the ones that do are people you know. I didn’t get any questions right away, but after I sat down a couple of the people around me had some comments or questions. There was a break shortly after mine and one of the people in the audience came up and said that she worked with one of the ex ministers of ag in Dominica so he might be able to help us get our bugs out. I went and asked Chris how he though it went then talked to Jamie and Demetiv. Lois came over and I talked to her about one of the cixiids that I mentioned and then it was time for the other presentations. I was surprised that there were actually a fair number of people who had just come for my presentation and then left (and that weren’t my friends coming to watch me) maybe some of these people actually cared what I said. All in all not my best presentation- I was using notes which I hate doing, but I just had too hard of a time keeping track of which species and genera were known only from Dominica etc- but it didn’t go too bad. My session got done a bit earlier than the others since we had a cancellation, so I was able to go to Amandas leafhopper one. The only problem was that there were 3 presentations all at that time that I wanted to see, but I decided to go with the leafhoppers even though I had seen it the night before. I got there just as she was starting, her presentation went really well even though her audio didn’t work right. There weren’t speakers in the room so she had to use the speakers that Andrea had but wernt very loud so you couldn’t really hear it too well. She got a couple of questions and answered them pretty well. After hers I went down to the exhibit hall to see what things I could find to spend money on along with check out the posters. I ran into Lois and she was going to lunch with Charles (Fulgoroid guy at Connecticut) and one of his grad students. So we walked over to the mall and got our food. I decided on California rolls. It was strange having to use my own utensils to remove the avocados since the only time I ever eat them is with Cammack and its become tradition to use his chopsticks for the avocado extradition. The California rolls were ok, pretty expensive though- so glad I got that travel grant.After lunch caught a few more presentations then just found oz and those guys and talked to them. Chris came and told me the Auchenorrhyncha people were going out so I went with them. We went to buffalo wild wings for happy hour. Julie, Chris, and I were talking about why we got into entomology. Both chris and I had started young me at the Heard doing actual work in high school and playing around before that and one of his early memories was putting a matid ootheca (egg case) under the dinning room table which hatched while he was at school. Julie was saying that those of us who started early had a huge advantage over others and that in many ways this couldn’t be made up. To some extent I think that’s true- when your learning languages etc its thought the earlier you start the easier it is to learn. I defiantly noticed that with leafhoppers. The stuff I learned in high school stuck with me even though I didn’t use parts of it for years after a quick refresher it came back. There were some downsides to learning it early though. The traditional way of learning taxonomy is to start at higher levels and go down. Well I learned how to tell a leafhopper from everything else and then jumped straight to genus. So first off I had no clue what the rest of the bugs were in my samples and secondly now I’m having to go back and figure out where the stuff I learned 6 years ago goes. The genus part of it isn’t too bad since as Chris said that levels more stable especially now that hes moving a bunch of stuff around. Its just kind of frustrating sometimes to hear people talking subfamilies or tribes and I for the life of me don’t know what it is even though once they say a genus or 2 I realize there are at least some members that I am quite familiar with. Hopefully this semester will help with that since I’ll be spending a big chunk of time learning and sorting subfamilies. Turns out A&M has one of the best collections of Australian leafhoppers outside of Australia along with a good general collection so there’s a lot of material. Australia has a lot of endemic (found only there) groups and so a good collection from there means I can learn those along with the more typical subfamilies. It really worked out well having Chris come to A&M over the summer while I was there. While working in our collection he sorted stuff with the idea that I could then use that material to learn subfamilies and so organized it as such.After a while Dani and Jamie got to the bar and we had another round. The beer there was pretty good, I had dark beer of course. We all left around 7 or so and headed to the school receptions. A&M’s was in the Hyett as was the NC State so Chris, Charles and I wandered around until we found the right rooms. The A&M one was pretty big, I saw Andrea at one of the tables so I went and talked to her for a while before deciding I should probably go back to the hotel to study somemore for my physiology test so I walked back to the embassy sweets. This time I didn’t get horribly lost like on my first attempt to find the hotel when I ended up in some art gallery. Back at the hotel I studied for my phys test until I fell asleep with my book still open.

Conference- aka being paid to go hang out with 1,000 people just like me

I spent the last week up north in Illinois and Indiana. The days leading up to that were pretty crazy, i took 4 finals in about 18 hrs. Before starting that I was trying to study, finish up the IDs and get ready for the meeting. We did have dinner gatherings- the first night Maria and I went over to Daisy and Stevens for supper and some Super Smash Brothers fun. Daisy cooked cornish game hens which were excellent. Next they came over to our house for dinner, Maria cooked Pork Roast. Then we went back over to their house for supoer smash brothers a couple nights later. The finals went ok, it was nice to get them over with although I was running back and forth constantly. I took one at A&M then ran to Blinn and took another one. The next day I took one at Blinn at about 8 then took my last one at A&M a couple hrs later. Between the two was a feverish packing attempt at 2am and clearing leafhopper genitilia. Cammack's laptop broke so we took it apart and tried to pull files off of it with no luck. After taking all my finals it was back to the lab and trying to get bugs packed up to take to Illinois. I pulled the genitilia out of the KOH (caustic, used to disolve nonscleritized tissue) and put it in the microvials. Only issue was that I didnt have any and Oz and Ed were already in route to ESA. I got into Eds office and dug around but for the life of me couldnt find the stuff so I grabbed the vials from Ozs stash and tried mostly unsuccessfully to get glicyerin in them without a syringe. Eventually I got enough made to pack up the ones i needed and finished preparing the specimens. I also talked to Teal, im offiically TAing 311 next semester. Cammack and I went and grabbed lunch at Ag Cafe before he took me to the airport. On arrivial I realized I didnt have my checkbook, so cammack dropped me off and went to get it. I checked in and sat around for a bit unti Cammack pulled back up with my checkbook. I went up to security and they made me go through a couple times then searched my backpack. They finally found my epi pen and they decided that that was what set it off. As they were pulling everything out I told the guy to be careful with the box since it was fragile, so he took it out all carefully then proceeded to shake it. Nothing rattled and so he wrapped it back up without opening it and handed it back to me to put away in my backpack. Luckily the bugs were ok. Once I was at the gate Cammack called to make sure he could leave (I needed him to wait and make sure my bugs got through). My plane was a few min late but not too bad. On the plane to DFW I took a short nap since the flights less than an hour long. Once in dallas I found the business lounge deal and pulled out my laptop. It was time to start working on my presentation. I was there for a couple hrs waiting on the next flight which was running a bit late. I slept a bit more on the plane then did somemore work on the presentation. Id been sick all week and that last part of the plane was torture. I was pretty sure that my ears were going to explode but I landed in Champaign without anything rupturing. The airport was a bit bigger than the one at A&M but not substantially. I made my way down to the lobby and met up with Chris. Apparently preparing your presentation on the plane is more the norm than exception since when i told chris i was concerned about it he told me get use to it, it doesnt get any better. Not exactly what i was expecting based off the profs im around at A&M but definatly more my style. Grabbed my bag and went outside. It was insanely cold, and i left my gloves and hoodie in college station. Must have been in the 20s or so, with some ice on the ground. On the way to Chris's house I got to see a good chunk of Champaign, looks like a nice town. Very similar to A&M although a lot more brick. The building the survey is in is kinda cool, the biology side of it is in champaign while the geology side of it is in urbana. Theres a 31 flavors and mcdonalds, thats all i need in life. The houses were so different looking, they were square, no brick and with porches (either inclosed or not). They just looked cold. We got to Chris's house and I stuck all my stuff upstairs then met his wife, susan, and daughter claire. We ate some soup, nice and warm, then talked leafhoppers for a bit. I pulled out my B-tray of bugs from Dominica and gave those to him so we could ID them when we got back from ESA. Went to bed pretty early since we needed to be on the road by 430 to get to ECN on time.

Saturday started at 420 when Chris woke me up. I grabbed my stuff and we went to Jamies house. Jamie appeared a few min later and said he needed finish packing. After a few min he came down and we were back on the road to Dimetrivs. Dimetriv was ready so he loaded up and it was off to Indianapolis. I was asleep again pretty much instantly and didnt wake up until we were approaching Indianapolis. We found their hotel- right by this staduim that was being built, there must have been 30 cranes working on it, definatly exciting. We walked over to the Hotel where the ECN meeting was being held. The morning presentations were interesting, they were almost all relating to computerizing collections either by databasing (done by Ed), online librarys (by Oz) or online interactive keys (Dimetriv). There were also a couple about projects being undertaken at various collections and that sort of thing. Dani showed up a bit after we did and for lunch we all went to the mall, along with Ed, Cheryl Barr, Dave Furth, and a couple others. The most exciting part was that Dave Furth (smisonian guy) remembered me from last meeting, and Cheryl knew me from my Abachrysa e-mails. The afternoon presentations were also pretty good, then I met up with Lois and talked to her some about the papers I'm working on. There was a dinner social at the hotel, sat with an eclectic group- the grad students from chris's lab plus the new curator at AK Fairbanks, a lep systemitist, and some beetle people. After dinner finished up my presentation- it came together pretty nice I think then went to the hotel bar where most of the grad students went. We were all pretty exhasted though so I think we left around 10. One of the guys from NC state had a van and since they were staying at the holiday inn they gave me and Jamie a ride back there to pick up my stuff then they dropped me off at the Hyatt where I was staying for the 1st night. I checked in and found my room on the 14th story. I love tall buildings. Andrea wasn’t there yet so I messed with my presentation for a bit longer by which point she had arrived. After talking for a while we called it a night since I had to be at the convention center at 630 to do my volunteer hours.

610 came way too early and I made my way to the convention center. Indianapolis is kinda cool in that a lot of the stuff downtown is connected by enclosed raised passages so you don’t have to go out into the cold. I was working the presentation preview room like last year, but rather than having to deal with presenters who didn’t know how to upload their presentations or who were waiting until the last possible moment to do so. Instead I got to sit at the table, look official and hand out stuff for moderators. I even got to hang onto a walktakie to contact Grayson incase there were major issues and he wasn’t around. It was quite nice. Then ever 45 min or so I would walk down to the wireless internet room and make sure only ESA people were using it. Pretty easy job. Presenters would come in and look at me so id point them to a computer then be like if you have any trouble one of these people would be happy to help you. It was exquisite as my favorite Romanian would say. At 7am I went and got my registration packet and the 5 of us volunteers discovered that there was a scavenger hunt to win a prize. It was finding various types of people like worked in CA entomology, or someone from a different branch than you were. Well being in the preview room we had a lot of options to get signatures. I decided to wait on the governing board so it would be an excuse to harass heraty. After finishing up in the projection room I ran into David and we went to lunch with Dr. Harris and Robert. Had the best but most overpriced burger I’ve had in a while. Went to a few presentations then back to the hotel for a bit to figure out the plan for the night. I was suppose to go to the Embassy Sweets, but I couldn’t get ahold of Jill or the other girls. Also I kinda wanted to stay where I was until after the presentation since it was closer and quieter than the student hotel was. The 1st real even was the plenary session. I ran into heraty on my way over there, and figured he knew where he was going being on the governing board and all. Well he didn’t, but we eventually got there. I was early so I left again and wandered around alittle. I ran into Norm Penny a neuropterist who was talking with Lois and Charlie. Lois and Charlie went to eat and Norm and I went to the plenary session. After the first business meeting the speaker started his presentation. It was on Wigglesworth, an insect physiologist. It was pretty interesting, just wish all insect phys was as cool. One of his experiments involved writing his initials in juvenile hormone on a plant bugs abdomen to see if it would change the make up of the cuticle (which it did). So his initials were written in juvenile cuticle while the rest of the bug was adult. Next was the reception for everyone at esa. Found some food and a place to sit with lois and dani. Then it was time to wander the room. I needed to find Heraty to get the scavenger hunt form signed and Alma to ask her some questions on collecting in mexico. Finding people was virtually impossible you could see someone you needed to talk to and by the time you fought through the crowd they were gone. I ran into Demetiv and talked to him for a while. Then it was back to looking for Heraty and Alma. Eventually I found Heraty. He introduced me to some people and signed my paper. I realized I was going to be in LA over Christmas and that it might be nice to go out to riverside. I told him and got his e-mail address and phone numbers. I handed him back his pen but didn’t have his pen cap. Turned out he didn’t either. After both of us taking all the stuff out of all our pockets and still not finding it I finally spotted it on the floor a few feet away. As to how it got there no idea. I wandered off after a while and found Michelle and a few of the other A&M grad students. Talked to them then saw Alma. We apparently spotted eachother at the same time so I didn’t even have to chase her down. I like this whole 2nd conference recognition thing, makes life so much easier. She thinks mexico should be workable, need to find someone with a collecting permit then just get on theirs as a collaborator. Hopefully I should be able to find someone without too much trouble. Cammack and I have been talking about collecting down in Tamalipas for a couple years. Julio had told me about Rancho del Cielo, the northernmost cloudforest and since then I’ve been trying to figure out how to get down there. Alma and I parted ways and I went back to talking to the grad students. Then I saw ed talking to a bunch of beetle guys so I went over there and after a while Ed, one of the curators at BYU, and I decided we needed to get some more substantial food. We tried a bunch of different places which were all closed or no longer serving food. Finally someone said the steak and shake was still open so the 3 of us went there for dinner. It was a nice dinner listening to collecting stories and occasionally getting to add one of my own. Seems like everyone has a getting horribly lost in the woods and and dang I wish I had a flashlight story. The best lost story I've ever heard was a guy who got lost in the woods and ended up curling up in a malaise trap for the night. After dinner I walked back to the hotel with some other people staying there and went up to my room. Amanda (one of Andreas friends from randys lab) was staying in the Hyatt with us and so I met her. She works on leafhoppers also, looking at glasswing sharpshooter behavior. We were both presenting in the morning so we ran through the talks once each then called it a night. I slept on the floor in a sea of pillows and blankets.

I dont get why people dont belive me when I say I sleep on the floor. Been doing it nightly since high school and even before anytime i could id sleep on the ground somewhere. I think its because when I was really young my parents would have me sleep on the couch when we went up to the cabin. They would then surround the couch with chairs until I was totally barricaded in. I got so use to being barricaded that I guess i just figured i needed to be contained. For most of my life i've been afraid of beds since i figure ill fall out and theyre not containing enough. When I was 7 or 8 i got a loft bed which had rails on all sides so that was nice and containing. After the move to TX i stayed in the loft bed until one day we took the sheets off to get washed and i never put them back on, just started sleeping on a pile of blankets on the floor. Much more confortable, and I've never gone back.