Thursday, April 30, 2015

Integrated Pest Management

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a method of preventing insect influence without heavily relying on pesticides. For example, insects generally like warm, moist places, so one way to do IPM is to make sure the target environment is cool and dry. The Emory herbarium does this and other things (like pheromone traps) to make sure insects don't eat the dried plants in the archives.

After noticing several unwanted insects in my dorm room, I've adopted parts of IPM that also fall under common sense: covering food and water and cleaning things every so often. It seems to be working out so far.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Minecraft Writing

One of the writing contracts I took last summer was for a short story set in Minecraft, the world's best-selling PC game. For various reasons, I quit the job after finishing the story but before getting paid. This was a bit of a downer, but it meant I still owned the rights to the story, so I put it in my online portfolio.

Ever since then, I've gotten regular interview invitations to write more Minecraft stories. Now that summer has arrived, I can start accepting these jobs. I'm guessing there's a high demand for Minecraft story-writers because the older, more experienced writers on the site I work on probably haven't played Minecraft (released in 2009). There's a smaller pool, then of freelancers who have experience with the game.

Long story short, I'm getting more convinced that Minecraft is the most productive game I play.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Science Facts: Invertebrate Sleep

According to Wikipedia, the worm C. elegans is the most primitive animal that sleeps. This might, of course, depend on your definition of sleep.

In experiments to learn more about invertebrate sleep, scientists apparently compared the actions of regular fruit flies to sleep-deprived fruit flies. I'm guessing that means that it was some scientist's job to keep flies from falling asleep.

You can tell a cockroach is asleep when its antennae are "folded down."

Monday, April 27, 2015


McDonald's as a restaurant is like Marvel's Wolverine: it's the best at what it does, but what it does best isn't very nice.

I went to McDonald's today and ordered a big mac which I soon got in a nice cardboard box. The sandwich itself was limp and warm; the meat, sheathed in lettuce, was grayish-brown and a slice of artificial cheese hid two or three pickle slices.

On the other hand, the big mac, one of the more expensive sandwiches on the McDonald's menu, cost $3.69 and tasted great (I was very hungry). This may not justify the previous paragraph, but I'm already out of my depth here.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nutella Ingredients

The top five ingredients listed on my jar of Nutella are sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, and skim milk, in that order. The palm oil was the most surprising to me; now that I think about it, though, Nutella does act a lot like natural peanut butter, another oil-based spread.

Based on the label's nutrition facts, a spoonful of Nutella supplies 10% of my daily fat requirement, just slightly less than a spoonful of peanut butter. The tagline beside the nutrition facts reads, "Turn a balanced breakfast into a healthy one."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Consulate Poem

Bussing brisk to chez Brazil
Filling foreign forms with facts
Signing documents until
Brand new passports were handed back

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

College Ad

He already has two prospective job offers

This is a college ad photographed by my brother Joel upon his arrival in Atlanta. My brother is also a computer science major, but he hopes to have more hair upon graduation than this college advertises.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Porridge Poem

The sugar glid down paper trough
Unto the porridge hot in bowl
A taste found it was not enough
To aptly sweeten senses whole
So tipped once more the sugar-hold
To straight let fall its grainy sleet
But fateful taste test truthly told
That now the porridge was too sweet

Monday, April 20, 2015

Origins of Tide

'Tide' comes from the Germanic 'tid,' which means 'time' or 'era'. 'Tide,' therefore, was about time (Yuletide, etc.) before it was used to describe the sea (high tide, low tide). The latter use apparently appeared in late Middle English.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The One Cup Way

I happen to only have one cup this year-- I'm sure I could easily get another cup or a water bottle from somewhere, but I've never gotten around to it.

I keep the cup close to a tap so I can get a drink whenever I want. For a cold drink, I fill the cup with water and put it in the fridge for a while. The downside of this, of course, is that when you want a cold drink after a walk in the sun or something, you probably want it now, not in half an hour.

It's a small inconvenience that makes me appreciate readily available cold water from smart people who keep it in bottles in fridges.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Student Businesses

I recently read an article in the school newspaper about two students who were starting a clothing company selling men's button-up shirts. Their two main advertising points are quality and "affordable prices for college students"; great ideas, but they're selling the shirts for $60 each. Fortunately, Emory students get a special rate of $40 a shirt.

Moreover, these students source their shirts from China-- one might think that this means a great profit margin, but these students say that they "refuse to allow their clothing to be marked up in price."

If these students are sincere, they're selling to a niche market. In my uninformed view, this company advertising affordability is like a thrift store advertising how brand new its products are: it's probably not true and the target market probably doesn't care.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Salad Bars

A salad bar is a great idea-- instead of preparing individual salads, provide bulk ingredients and let people each make their own favorite salad. It's a win-win situation.

My problem with salad bars, though, is that I'm really bad at making salads that I like. I think my problem is that I choose ingredients based on what they taste like by themselves. I created a particularly bad salad today for dinner: lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, olives, cheese, tofu, boiled eggs and ranch dressing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Taxonomic Keys

A taxonomic key is a series of questions used to identify organisms-- each question eliminates options of what the organism couldn't be until there's only one species left that must be the answer. For example:

1. Is the organism single-celled? Yes - go to 2. No - go to 3.
2. Does the organism photosynthesize? etc.
3. Is the organism larger than a breadbox? etc.

Real taxonomic keys, of course, are much more complex and usually don't employ the breadbox reference. I'm interested to see the similarity between taxonomic keys and interactive stories. Just as with interactive stories, I feel like taxonomic keys could benefit a lot by being digitized-- a computer program that links chosen answers with the next questions would be much more convenient than flipping through a taxonomic book. Such a program may exist, but I haven't come across it yet.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lancelot Climbing a Tree

There is an instance in Morte Darthur in which a lady asks Sir Lancelot to climb a tree to retrieve her hawk. It's one of the less glamorous episodes of Lancelot's adventures, proving that being a knight of the Round Table isn't all adventure and glory. Here is Lancelot's response to the lady's request:

"Well, fair lady, since that ye know my name and require me of knighthood to help, I will do what I may to get your hawk. And yet, God knoweth, I am an evil climber, and the tree is passing high, and few boughs to help me withal."

Lancelot does eventually manage to get the hawk.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

IDOC of the Future

The IDOC is a tedious packet of tax documents required yearly for me to apply for financial aid. It's processed by Collegeboard. There are very specific requirements for paper size and print quality and mailing procedure. After bad experiences with IDOC in past years, I'd been mentally gritting my teeth for this year's submission.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found out that IDOC can now be submitted digitally! It's a huge relief, and I suppose that the conversation at Collegeboard went something like this:

Employee 1: Well, it's time to process IDOC again.
Employee 2: Yeah, I really love sorting through tens of thousands of envelopes and making sure every bit of paper gets to the right place.
enter Employee 3: Hey guys, guys! I just looked at my calendar! The year is actually 2015!
Employee 1: Whaaa...
Employee 2: It can't be... it's 1980, right? Why else would we be dealing with all these envelopes?
Employee 3: No, we're really in the 21st century and we can use the internet and everything! It'll be so much easier for everyone involved!
Employee 1: I don't know... I always thought that financial aid should be based on how much paperwork the student is willing to go through.
Employee 2: Come on, you can always process SATs if you miss handling envelopes.
Employee 3: I'll start coding a new IDOC website right away!
all cheer

In any case, I'm happy to witness the slow digitization and simplification of my financial aid experience.

Rain Adventure

I'd like to take a moment to take back everything I've said about rain in the US not being as powerful as in Nigeria.

I walked to the cafeteria today to get dinner, which took me about half an hour. When I was ready to go back to my dorm, it was pouring outside and very windy.

I wasn't carrying any textbooks or valuable electronics, so I decided that it was as good a time as any for a walk in the rain. I stepped out the door and was blown to the side by a gust of wind, and once I left the shelter of the building, I noticed that it was hailing.

Within about fifteen seconds, I was soaked. I was carrying some hot pockets in a paper bag, and the bag was saturated and fell apart after another twenty seconds. I had the whole sidewalk to myself.
The hail was one or two cm wide on average, and it broke the skin on the hand I was using to shield my head. Fortunately for me, the hail let up after a minute or so.

My dorm is on the opposite side of the road from the cafeteria, and by the time I reached the street crossing, the power had gone out and the traffic lights weren't working. It's a four-way intersection, but people were driving slowly and giving others the benefit of the doubt, so things were working out. I eventually ran across the road through a break in traffic.

I'm safe back in my dorm now; the adventure in the rain was certainly an exciting end to my week.

Friday, April 10, 2015

RTS Strategy

In an RTS, players control workers that collect resources build buildings and soldiers that fight battles-- the goal is generally to destroy the other player's base. Focusing too much on the economy means you don't have enough soldiers and focusing too much on the military means you don't have enough resources to build soldiers. As you can imagine, RTS is all about multitasking and making sure every single unit you control is doing the right thing.

It makes sense, then, that to play an RTS well, you have to be clicking and doing things basically all the time. In Starcraft, the world's most popular RTS, the best players issue up to 200 commands per minute, or 3.33 commands every second. Games generally last 20-60 minutes, depending on the RTS and strategies used.

My RTS of choice is Age of Empires II. I'm certainly not good enough to be clicking three things every second, but 40 minute games still take their toll. I just finished one such session and realized I was sweating in an air-conditioned room.

Why do I play these games? It could be that it's good mental exercise; RTS could be described as a series of fast decisions where making more than a few slip-ups spells disaster. I also like the feeling of succeeding through adversity-- the best games are the ones where I almost lose before finally coming out on top. Whatever the reason, RTS is a genre I've enjoyed for years.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Civil War Ramen Description

Ramen is one of the most valuable medicines available to us. The noodle can be taken dry or in decoction to suppress hunger. The hot decoction causes burns when applied to the skin. The seasoning is diaphoretic and causes irritation in topical application.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Teaching Class Role Play

What's the difference between acting and role-playing? Something is probably role-playing if everyone present is taking part.

In any case, I've experienced an unexpectedly large amount of role-playing today. We're practicing planning and executing lessons in my Teaching class and each student is teaching a 10-minute segment of a lesson they've planned.

This is where the role-playing comes in. The first lesson segment was for a high school biology class, the next two were for kindergarten, and the fourth was middle school social studies. As an audience, we're supposed to assume the approximate behaviors and knowledge of the students of each lesson, so every ten minutes or so, we would go from knowing about chemical formulas to not being sure how addition works.

Psychologists would probably have something to say about regressing to childhood behaviors, but it's been pretty fun for the most part, and I'm looking forward to more practice lessons.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Plant of the Day: Devil's Walkingstick

Aralia spinosa (Araliaceae)

Devil's walkingstick is named for its relatively long and strait stem that looks like it might make a good walking stick. There are, however, small thorns all along the stem and the center is pith. What a metaphor. The leaves of this plant were taken to treat chest pain during the Civil War.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Signs of Sickness

It starts with 'soph'gus sore and scratched
Then snorting sniffs through snout all stung
And sleepy sighs and snoozing snatched
With sickly slime through sneezer slung

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Research Posters

I've been putting together a research poster recently-- I'm not quite sure what a research poster is supposed to look like, but I'm learning. Here are a few tips I've gotten:

Three or four columns of content is the way to go. It's not very creative, but it gets the job done. Start on the far left of the poster with the introduction, then work right with methods, etc. until you reach the conclusion and references on the far right.

Put the references in much smaller print than anything else on the poster. They technically need to be there, but almost nobody looks at references unless they doubt something you said somewhere else on the poster.

The color scheme should be black and white and one other color, like blue. Anything more than that is far too exciting to be scientific.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Advertisement Technicalities

Avoiding advertisements is difficult to impossible in the modern world, so I like to make a game of finding reasons to not be convinced by ads.

I just heard an Old Navy ad: the "entire store is on sale for up to 50% off." The "up to 50% off" is the first red flag that this actually isn't a good deal. It could be that one rack of polos is 50% off and the rest of the store could have measly 5% or 10% discounts, and the ad would still be technically correct (the best kind of correct).

However, there was also a disclaimer at the end of the ad that gift cards and Fruit-of-the-Looms are not included in the deal.

     1. with no part left out; whole.
This ad, then, clearly breaks the Standards of Practice set in place by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, specifically Creative Code 1.a.

I'm not, of course, going to actually do anything about this breach of standard, but Old Navy will not be receiving my customership for a while, a gesture made insignificant by the fact that I don't actually know where any Old Navies are in Atlanta.

Plant of the Day: Rue Anemone

Anemonella thalictroides (Ranunculaceae)

Rue anemone is rumored to have an edible root, but it is also rumored to be toxic. It can apparently have anywhere from five to eleven petals.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Death of Arthur

Le Morte Darthur begins with Arthur's conception and goes on to tell many great tales of the knights of the Round Table. Only the last chapter deals with Arthur's death. I had read this last chapter by itself for a previous English class, but reading it again after reading the rest of the book made it much more meaningful. When war begins between Arthur and Lancelot, the lists of knights killed is full of familiar names, knights that had once been all united in the Grail Quest and other adventures.

While Arthur is waging war against Lancelot in France, Mordred declares himself king of England and Arthur returns to reclaim his throne. The last battle famously ends with four men standing: Arthur, Mordred, Lucan, and Bedivere. Arthur then kills Mordred, but receives a fatal wound from him:

"And noble King Arthur fell in a swoon to the earth, and there he swooned oftentimes. And Sir Lucan and Sir Bedivere ofttimes heaved him up, and so weakly betwixt them they led him to a little chapel not far from the sea; and when the King was there, he thought him reasonably eased. Then heard they people cry in the field.
    'Now go thous, Sir Lucan,' said the King, 'and do me to wit what betokens that noise in the field.'
    So Sir Lucan departed, for he was grievously wounded in many places. And so as he yode, he saw and hearkened by the moonlight how that pillagers and robbers were come into the field to pillage and to rob many a full noble knight of brooches and bees, and of many a good ring and many a rich jewel. And who that were not dead all out, there they slew them for their harness and their riches."

One of the sad things about this passage is that any strong knight of the Round Table would be able to stop such looting. All that remains of the Round Table, however, is a mortally wounded Arthur and two wounded, relatively minor knights. It is the end of an era.