Summer is officially over, the kids are back in school, I've been traveling for work, and visiting family have gotten us out and about in the Triangle. Here are some highlights.

Let's be scientific

I went up to Washingon, D.C. last week to attend the Sackler Colloquium on the Science of Science Communication, held in the magnificent National Academies of Science building. I'd never been inside that building, although I had genuflected at the Einstein statue out front when I'd visited the capital with my father in 1987. This time, I went to D.C. by car with Russ Campbell, my SCONC friend and longtime supporter of ScienceOnline. We had two great discussions on the way to and from the conference, and I'm thankful for the distraction-less time to get to know Russ better.

  • Russ digs the Beat poets and Woody Allen, still supports his hometown Philadelphia teams, and bought some books for his daughters when we stopped in Ashland, Virginia, for lunch and strolling along the track-side shops.

The Sackler meeting was too academic for me at first, but it evened out to include some really good talks and discussions about social networks, social media and political attacks on good evidence (see this storify of the keynote by Kathleen Hall Jamieson). I sat up in the corner of the spacious, space-age auditorium. At one point, a speaker mentioned an urgent need for a way for scientists and science communicators to connect, so, naturally, I tweeted an answer:

Scattered throughout the auditorium were Liz and Lauren and Miriam and Lou and Brian and Russ and others who have been connected through our ScienceOnline events and satellite meetups and continuous online networking (follow the #sciox hashtag). It was satisfying to know that we've been at this for more than 10 years, but also sobering to know that we have a lot of work to do to spread the ScienceOnline name and mission. All are welcome.

  • ScienceOnline needs your support - please give $20.14 (or more if you can) to our fund drive.

At Sackler, I met a former Miami journalist who went to work for the National Audubon Society and helped promoted the Everglades National Park. I was glad to tell him about ScienceOnline Oceans, our next event, which will take place in Miami in just 12 days.

Bluegrass and salamander in the hand

My uncle, John Zuiker, drove down from Virginia to attend the Wide Open Bluegrass festival in Raleigh this weekend. John is a diehard bluegrass fan, and a most generous uncle. My earliest memories of him are of him singing around the Ravens Roost campfire and plugging quarters into the Wagon Wheel jukebox to make Children Go play again and again while my cousins and I sang along.

Erin and the children and I accompanied Uncle John Saturday afternoon to the bluegrass street festival in downtown Raleigh. For a while, we sat in the middle of Fayetteville Street, listening to Grasstowne pickin' and strummin'.

I looked over John's shoulder to see my daughter Anna mesmerized by the fiddle player (she's learning to play the violin), and I glanced up the street.

Looking on Fayetteville #wob13

This morning, we went for a hike on a Duke Forest trail near my house, and Uncle John taught the kids to roll decaying logs to look for bugs. Under the first log he rolled over was a salamander. Very cool!

Hiking in Duke Forest with Uncle John, who taught kids to roll logs to look for bugs. Found this salamander.

Further along the trail, these ghost plants were bathed in a spotlight of sun.

Spotlight in the forest. Some type of fungus?

Tacos and Tequila

After the day in Raleigh, I turned right around to go back to the city to a party thrown by Dean McCord to celebrate his 50th birthday. There was fabulous food (warm corn tortillas and flavorful pulled pork and searing habanero salsa) catered by the on-fire Chef Ashley Christensen, and beer from Fullsteam - I sat and talked with Fullsteam owner Sean Lilly Wilson. Quite a treat all around. Dean had invited me to his previous parties over the last few years, but I've never been able to make it. So glad I did this year. Dean is a gourmand, food blogger, dedicated father and a really authentic individual.

  • Here's Sean talking about his potato ricer:

New music, new writing tools, new kitchen projects

A new Peter Gabriel album came out last week. This one features other artists covering his songs. It's a companion album to his Scratch My Back project on which he covered other artists' songs. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver covered Come Talk to Me, one of my favorite songs (Us is in My island jukebox).

I've been tracking host of new writing, blogging and web publishing tools over the last year. See this post on my mistersugar blog. Last week I started with Ghost. It has a lot of promise, provides a writing experience similar to Medium, and may be a good alternative for me. Note, though, that I'm writing this post in Fargo, which has enlightened me: when I write in Fargo, it feels like I'm writing from the inside out, building the essay with blocks that I can maneuver into position before the essay is unveiled. It reminds me of the peonies that bloomed in the front garden earlier this year, the buds growing rounder and rounder until their flowers burst in color.

In the kitchen, I've made quite a few batches of DIY slivovitz (found the right plums first at Harris Teeter in Durham, and now at Whole Foods in Chapel Hill) and a jar of Thai red curry paste using some of the bounty of peppers from the backyard garden boxes. I've started DIY hot sauce with a bag of cayenne peppers I bough at the Carrboro Farmers Market.

Life is full of spice. I'm very lucky.

09/29/13; 08:20:26 PM

Perusing the twitter stream tonight, I saw mention of coconut crabs and a news story about Amelia Earhart. Seems the latest theory is that the big crabs carried away her bones.

So, I went digging.

Digging, that is, into my blog archives. I was looking for a post I was convinced I'd already written about the coconut crab, the largest land-living arthropod on the planet. But, I can't find any mention of coconut crabs on my blog or in my @mistersugar twitter archives, so here's the story.

During our time as Peace Corps Volunteers in the Republic of Vanuatu, Erin and I encountered one krab kokonas (as it is known in Bislama, the lingua franca of the islands). We had been visiting friends on Maewo, where there were still some of these powerful crabs, and so we paid one of the chiefs to find one for us to take home with us to our smaller island of Paama. The crab - wrapped tightly so that the claw couldn't snap one of our fingers off - was waiting for us at the airport. Back on Paama, my host brother, Noel Timante, carefully stabbed a large knife into the creature, and we quickly dropped it into a pot of boiling water.

Here's a photo, with Erin and her big hand (it's a lovely hand that fits perfectly in mine) and Noel's little daughter Mereva, just after the crab came out of the pot.

We enjoyed the delicious meat with freshly squeezed coconut milk and lime juice, and shared it with Noel and his family.

I sometimes feel bad about that meal. Coconut crabs can live up to 50 or 60 years.

Now I remember: I was going to include the photo above in my Ignite Raleigh talk, I want to hold your hand. And the first essay that I wrote for my website in 2000, From There to Here, is still one of my favorites about handshakes and walking hand-in-hand with Noel.

09/15/13; 09:51:32 PM

The 2013 IgĀ® Nobel Prize Ceremony & Lectures will be streamed live from Harvard's Sanders Theatre on Thursday, September 12.

  • The 23nd First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony will introduce ten new Ig Nobel Prize winners. Each has done something that makes people laugh then think. The winners travel to the ceremony, at their own expense, from several continents. The Prizes are handed to them by a group of genuine, genuinely bemused Nobel Laureates, in Harvard's historic, largest theater filled with 1100 improbable persons, everything webcast live.

Here in the Triangle, we'll gather in the Daily Planet theater inside the NC Museum of Natural Sciences to watch, cheer and celebrate science. Brian Malow, science comedian and curator of the Daily Planet, will be our host.

It's free.

It's for science!

The webcast starts at 6 p.m., but come as early as 5:30 to mingle and converse.

Refreshments - coffee, beer, desserts and more - will be available for purchase in the Daily Planet Cafe.

After the ceremony, wander the museum - it's open to 9 p.m. on Thursdays.

This should be of interest to the Science Communicators of North Carolina, #TriSciTweetup, ScienceOnline and others.

09/05/13; 08:34:10 AM

Yes, Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson (with Veronica Chambers)

I couldn't put this down. Really interesting memoir from a top chef, about his birth in Ethiopia, adopted life in Sweden, culinary training and purposeful pursuit of flavors.

09/02/13; 10:27:29 PM

Last built: Fri, Mar 11, 2016 at 1:50 PM

By Anton Zuiker, Monday, September 2, 2013 at 10:27 PM.