Hybrid Peppers... One Year Later

In college I majored in biology.

Majoring in biology meant a lot of time spent in labs and what I learned is that I didn't have the patience to work in a physical science.

Everything takes so long and had to be so exact... There would be instructions like:

  1. Mix an agarose gel and let it sit until it was solid
  2. Mix some NaOH tablets with water
  3. Shake until it dissolves. (lots of shaking)
  4. Submerge the agarose gel in the basic solution
  5. Prick your finger, take a drop of blood and put it in a small channel in the gel
  6. Put a very specific electric current across the gel
  7. Wait exactly 60 minutes
  8. Wash the gel in Ethidium bromide
  9. Make sure you don't get any on your hands because it's a mutagen.
  10. Say "Shit!" and go wash your hands really well.
  11. Take slices of the gel and see if any of them are now shaped like a comet.
  12. By now 6 hours has gone by, and you're ready to get a result. You look at the assay and find nothing. It's like you forgot to put the blood in the agar or something. WTF?!? You repeat the experiment once a day for 3 weeks and finally realize that because of a small math error you were mixing 10x too much NaOH in the water. It totally explains why it was so hard to get it to dissolve and why you spent so much time shaking that stupid mixing bottle. The resulting solution was this syrup like solution that has a PH so high it frequently etched the glass stopper on the mixing container shut and more importantly was dissolving your blood cells as soon as they hit the liquid.
  13. Realize you just wasted 3 weeks accomplishing nothing.
  14. Get drunk.

Shortly after college I switched my career into software where it's much easier to get quick consistent answers. Even so, I still get a kick out of a real world experiment from time to time. This latest one only took a year. There was a lot of step #13 while we waited.

The Experiment

Last October Alex and I discovered a possible cross pollinated pepper in our garden. Alex kept the seeds from the mystery pepper.

My theory was that if we had a hybrid pepper that at least some of the seeds should produce plants that in turn had some form of hybrid peppers, or no peppers at all. Basically I was expecting to reproduce a Gregor Mendel pea experiment with peppers or to end up with mule peppers.


Because Alex kept the seeds, we were able to plant them again this year. "We" meaning my Uncle Sam, who graciously accepted half of the seeds as a gift, planted them and then gave the seedlings to us after we moved. In all we had six pepper plants that lived on our back deck.

There was no control. As a matter of fact, we put one of the subject pepper plants next to a banana pepper plant that I bought at Wallmart. Suck on that scientific method!

Five of the plants turned out normal Green Bell Peppers. Very tasty. One plant, the one next to the banana pepper plant, produced a mix of Bell Peppers and Giant Chili peppers. This is a picture of the plant taken outside in early October.


As the weather turned cold I brought the plant inside to keep the experiment going. This was taken in mid October.


Variation on Step #12
At this point I acknowledge that my aggressive disregard for any form of control leaves me, a year later, with one of two answers: Either my hypothesis was right, or this year I crossed banana peppers with bell peppers, and last year all I had was a red bell pepper.

Having more or less wasted a year I proceed to step #13. I have a drink, wait a few minutes, and then send another drink down to check on the first. Those two didn't report back, so I commandeered a bigger glass and sent the equivalent of a battalion to see to the first two drinks well being. 15 minutes later the voices in my head reported that all was well.

The older I get the harder it is to recover from step #13. It's a good thing I got out of biology when I did.

Practical Upshot
There is no practical upshot of having giant chili peppers. Like their parents, these peppers are way too hot to actually eat. Perhapes next time I properly execute a step #13 I'll try eating them again. For now they sit in a cabinet like mutant biological WMDs.

Our New President

To call the guys I work with smart-asses would be an understatement. They are a bunch of very smart guys who are physically incapable of passing up the chance to make a snide remark. Every day has a running color commentary and newsworthy events never get by without a thorough verbal assault.

But today was different. Today we sat there in awed silence as Barack Obama took the Oath of Office and give his Inauguration Address. No one said to be quiet. It wasn't necessary.

It's hard to describe the excitement around this event. There has been a palpable build up for the past few weeks. The hope that reached a fevered pitch on election day has only grown as the President Elect executed the most transparent executive transition in our history. In the two months since his election we've been presented with a barrage of open access to information, podcasts, videos, debates, and renewed calls for service. It's simply inspiring.

Today whitehouse.gov also changed hands, and it has a new feel of transparency similar the transition project. To me that means more than all the speeches combined. Actions speak louder than words and in today's world transparency is a very powerful form of action.

We are in the midst of wars, global climate change, and economic cataclysm and yet I'm looking forward to what we make of the coming days and years. As Barack Obama put it...

Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
- Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, January 20th, 2009 (source)

Image Credit: National Mall - NPR Public Radio

Basement Door

After living in our house for about 6 months I've come to the conclusion that my house was designed by a very creative person who fancied himself an architect and was missing at least part of a chromosome.

Don't get me wrong I love this house, it's just the right size, has a great floor plan and an awesome screened in back deck. Most importantly the public school system here rocks. But there are little things...

For example, a few rooms have light switches inside the room on the hinge side of the door. So to turn on the light you walk into the dark room, make your way around the door, fumble for the light switch, and try not to step on a cat. We're not talking major inconvenience, but every time I step on the cat, this little voice in my head screams "WHY DID THEY PUT THE SWITCH THERE?!?"

We also have a door that connects our garage to our basement. This is a wonderful feature in the winter, but again, mister can-I-buy-a-chromosome did a very strange thing when he installed the door. He made it open into the garage.

The garage door from inside the house

And if that picture doesn't explain the problem, imagine getting three kids out of the car and into the house when the door requires you all to walk past it and then open it.

The garage door from inside the garage

I decided to do something about it, because Christine told me to.

My dad decided to come over because he feared I might approach the project by trying to move my garage to the other side of my house.

Conner decided to assist, because it was clear to him that neither my father, nor I, had the slightest idea what we were doing, and if someone didn't measure this door thoroughly there was no telling what might happen.

Conner Helps with the door
Conner Helps with the door

Per my father's advice we went with a complete removal of the door and its frame, instead of trying to re-mount the door's hinges. I would have gone the hinge remounting route, and that would have sucked because I would have missed out on all the fun...

If you've never used a saber saw to cut a door out of your house you should. It's very cathartic.

Once the door was free we screwed a small piece of wood into the corner of the door and door fame (to keep it square) and then pulled the door out and flipped it around. Q.E.D.

And now the door opens into the house! There's plenty of room to maneuver when getting in and out of the car. Best of all the light switches are right there when you walk in!

A Door That Opens
A Door That Opens For Real

I've been sitting on this post for 2 months waiting until I could paint the door molding, but it just keeps getting colder. The finishing touches are just going to have to wait until spring. In the mean time here's the before and after view.

Garage Door Before and After
Garage Door Before and After

A Day in Montreal's Olympic City

After our trip up to Canada we found ourselves with a bunch of free time.  Christine's cousin's wedding was at night so we had a bit of time to take in some local flavor.  Fortunately the hotel had free WIFI and a quick Google search what to do in montreal pointed us to the site of the Montreal Olympics.

The Biodome and Olympic Tower

The Biodome over Christine's ShoulderWe visited the Biodome, which was the site of the indoor games, but has since been converted into 4 enclosed ecosystems.

In just under an hour we walked through Jungle, Forest, Arctic and Ocean Beach Eco Systems. We figured the kids would get a kick out of seeing what duck feet look like under water so we caught it on video.

French Exit FailAbove water we ran into a French Exit Fail.  There's no explanation from this. It's really a giant rock with a sign on it that says "Exit" in french.

Christine and a PorcupineWe even found out what a Porcupine looks like when sleeping in a tree over a beautiful woman.

Christine in front of the Olympic TowerAfter the Biodome we checked out the Olympic Tower.

This thing is huge. That curved track going up to the top is an elevator shaft. There's a glass elevator that goes up to the top.

Christine is smiling because I begrudgingly agreed to get into the elevator and ride up to the top.

2008-11-30 047It was a long way up...

I took this with one hand while holding on to the elevator with a steel grip.

There are a bunch more pictures of the view from the tower.

After the ride back down it was time to head out to the wedding.

The news was going on about a big storm on its way the next day.  More on that in a future post...

Embedding Custom Twitter Status

I started using twitter because some @crunchyjew said it was useful. It seemed like a ridiculous tool, but it grew on me because Twitter makes it easy to say what your doing:

...easy to follow what other people are doing:

...and easy to reply to people in a way that, when taken out of context, appears staggeringly vulgar:

Twitter has widgets you can put on your blog to show your latest tweets.

BUT... Their widgets show replies (when you start a tweet with @name) so instead of just showing your status, visitors to your blog might see potentially out of context and seemingly vulgar messages.

So I wrote a little twitter status widget that only shows a users twitter messages that are NOT replies. You just stick the following code where you want the twitter status to show up.

<div style="padding: 1em; background-image: url(http://lh3.ggpht.com/russelldad/SDoibrLyuUI/AAAAAAAAAyc/PmkO4mcsHuk/twitterbg.gif); min-height: 8em;"><img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3187/2879716364_f874fd7037_o.png" height="25" /><div id="twitter_update_list" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em; min-height: 6em; padding-bottom: 1em; padding-top: 1em;font-family:'Lucida Grande',sans-serif;font-size:0.8em;color:black;"><span style="color:grey;">Checking with Twitter...</span></div><a href="http://twitter.com/parussel" style="display: block; text-align: right;">follow me on Twitter</a></div><script src="http://russelldad.googlepages.com/twitter.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

and then add this somewhere near the bottom of the page...

<script src="http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/parussel.json?callback=myTwitterCallback2&count=10" type="text/javascript">

And then you get your twitter status, sans replies, showing up on your web page.

How to Give Hardwood Floors a Distressed Look

Christine and I were prepping the bathroom walls to be painted (sanding, last bits of wallpaper removal, etc). We took a break to check on this kids to find that Allison had taken the gallon of unopened bathroom paint and opened it by dropping it on the hard wood floors...

Allison\'s Paint Spill
Allison's Paint Spill

Click through to the blog if your viewing this post in email or a feed reader. There are comments embedded in the picture that will show up when you hover over it with your mouse.

Needless to say, having a 1 year old drop very nice paint on your wood floor and then having two people clean that part of the floor for ~40 minutes will produce a nice distressed look. It really gives the house character. I highly recommend it.