Kids Can’t Identify Tomatoes

This is a serious problem in America. This isn’t about mass farming versus local farming. This isn’t about organic versus traditional.

I could go on for days and days about those topics.

But this isn’t about that.

This about kids being so out of touch with food; so removed from the entire process.

It doesn’t matter if you work minimum wage for your entire career. It doesn’t matter if you have a personal chef. Everyone in this country, regardless of education, economic status, or anything else–everyone, should know how to identify the ingredients their food. They should know what they look like, where they come from, and how to cook them a differently.

I’m not saying no processed foods ever. I’m not saying if you can’t pronounce don’t eat it (I have a minor in chemistry, you’d be surprised what I can pronounce). What I’m saying is there are sometimes foods and their are everyday foods.

You, and your kids, should know what everyday foods look like, how to cook them, how to buy them, and mostly, you should be eating them.

Watch this video from TEDPrize winner Jamie Oliver and when the kids don’t know what a tomato is, you should either be horrified or disgusted. Personally, I was both.


#SCIO12 The Un-Conference

As you might have guessed, I’m a science guy. Sure, I’m not smart enough to understand most of it, but boy does it ever excite and fascinate me. I’m not, however, all that great in social situations. So going to a conference of 450 science communicators, educators, and fans had potential to be quite interesting.

Of course, it’s the only conference I’ve ever been to that had power strips every few feet and wifi hubs in every room to ensure everyone was connected to one another. Thank you organizers and sponsors!

I got to sit in on many sessions and even voiced my opinion once or twice, but by far the thing that makes ScienceOnline special is the people that participate. While I did go to a session during each slot, I got far more out of meeting people in between sessions.

All but about 2 people did I meet that were nice, awesome, and/or cool online turned out to be an order of magnitude more nice, awesome, and/or cool in person. I even heard more than one person say they, “heard that AmoebaMike was here.” That was kind of funny. Celebrity I am not. Not online and not in person.

While I am pseudonymous, I have never hid my actual identity on this blog. If you read the About page, you can see what I really look like (you do have to click through to FB 😉 ). Most people, though, just know me as a cute little guy in a lab coat with a cowboy hat riding an amoeba. So when I did introduce myself, I usually was greeted with, “oh, so you’re AmoebaMike.” I pretty much take that as “of course you’re not as cute as your avatar because how could you be.” Also, I look closer to biker than kid blogger.

Besides the awesome people–oh don’t worry, I will name names (keep reading)–the conference was great because of the inspiration. There were times when I thought of a great idea and surrounded by such greatness I said to myself why not? instead of no, that will never work.

Sure my shyness kept me feeling awkward where it probably shouldn’t have. Part of that since some of these people have been to 3 and 4 ScienceOnline conferences. But, there were more than a few people I connected with that I really hope I can grow a better friendship with in the coming years. Will I go to ScienceOnline in 2013? I don’t know. While it’s not expensive for what it is, it’s still money out of my pocket–I can’t get my employer to pay for it. With AmoebaJr on the way, I have to put myself on the back burner. Of course after more than 6 months of stay at home daddy time, that might just be the cost Mrs AmoebaMike has to pay to get me some sanity back.

Now I will publicly call out people I met at Scio12:

  • Heidi Smith: We didn’t get to talk enough but she was very nice and I hope to make conversation online soon.
  • Kaitlin Vandemark: Awesome physics undergrad I had never heard of before but am hoping to connect with much more and possibly even collaborate with.
  • Carin Bondar: Even more gorgeous and friendly in person. Dr Bondar not only introduced me to Kaitlin, but also tried to help me get out of my shell.
  • Jessica Morrison: A G+ buddy of mine, is just a sweetheart. One of the few to get to bring the spouse.
  • Laura Wheeler: A very nice girl who was in a bunch of sessions with me. We’re kicking the idea around of collaborating together if we can come up with something good.
  • Christie Wilcox: Exactly what you’d expect from her online, which yes, is a good thing. NerdyChristie got me introduced into a few good groups. She’s honestly my favorite science writer–and I told her as much.
  • Cassie Rodenberg: More sweet in person than you could ever get from her great writing on addiction at SciAm blogs. Really hoping to continue conversations online and even collaborate with her.
  • Cara Santa Maria: One of those rare people who just exudes awesome sauce. Yes, exuding awesome sauce sounds a little messy, but I assure you she’s the kind of person I could hang out with every day and continue to find fascinating.
  • Mark Hahnel: Only briefly spoke with me, but really seemed like a genuinely good guy. Since I’m not a researcher, I don’t know that I have a use for his product, figshare, but he’s the kind of guy you want to share a drink and a pizza with.
  • Sheril Kirshenbaum: Yes, she’s been featured here a time or two previously. She’s very much a sweetheart and I was sad I only got about 3 minutes with her.
  • Scicurious: Also someone that has been featured on this blog before, sci is a really awesome person. Her intelligence and personality is like none other in the science community. I would totes be her friend if she let me. 😉

And now, a proud recipient of a RUN PCR shirt I donated to the Scio12 film fest:

RUN PCR shirt on girl

Photo courtesy of Joanne Manaster,

Top 10 Gifts for Scientists or Science Lovers!

It’s the giving season and there are lots of great gifts out there, but it seems ideas and decisions are in short supply. So I’m here to give some great suggestions for the scientist or science lover in your life! Based on personality type, here are the 10 best science gifts:

For the book lover, like Joanne Manaster, I recommend Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects by Amy Stewart.

Flash Cards

For the mom, like Carin Bondar, I recommend The Nerdy Baby’s ABCs Flash Cards.

For the science writer that no longer sees the inside of a lab, like Ed Yong, I recommend a nice piece of art such as Petri Dishes 5 by the talented Michele Banks.

For the marine biology lover, like Christie Wilcox, I recommend Blue Planet.

For the star gazer, like Phil Plait, I would highly recommend the book The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

For the kid at heart, like Brian Krueger, I recommend a plush or bobble head famous scientist.

For the bug lover, like Bug Girl, I recommend a handmade plush insect sculpture, like the ones by Weird Bug Lady.

For the fashion forward, like Michelle Clement, I suggest a nice piece of jewelry and recommend this piece: silver DNA earrings.

For the funny one, like Brian Malow, I recommend something wearable that says: not only am I funny, I want everyone to know so I’m wearing this shirt.

For the person who has everything, like no scientist I know, a great gift would be a membership to the local science museum!

PCR Shirt

This is a microblog post. Otherwise known as a tweet (because my tweetdeck is all kinds of messed up lately.) 😉

I wore my RUN PCR shirt the other day. A dentist saw it and was intrigued. I explained (or jogged his memory) what PCR is and he loved it. haha (I think he may have also been a Run DMC fan.)

Oooo! When I went to grab that link I saw white shirts are 50% off right now (’til Sunday using code HOLIDAYSSALE ). So hey, get your RUN PCR shirt at half price and impress your friends, coworkers, and random dentists!

European Adventure

I’ve been gone for a while. However, I have good reason: Amoeba and I hit the high seas! Arrrgghhh

I went on a nice long cruise and went to such historically significant places as Rome, Athens, Rhodes (Greece), Ephesus (Turkey), and Istanbul–or Constantinople for you older folk.

I visited many sites of great architectural significance.

I had only already been to Rome, so it was pretty much all new to me.

A map showing the cities and towns affected by...

Image via Wikipedia

The biggest surprise, was in Italy. A site not too far from the port of Naples, where we docked. Pompeii gets all the notoriety, but Herculaneum is an impressive site worth visiting.  Herculaneum was a smaller, richer city thriving in 79 AD when Mt Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompeii.  Thing is, in 79 AD when Vesuvius erupted, it also buried Herculaneum. It was buried in a different way and has been very well preserved. Frescoes still cover many walls. Many skeletal remains were found as well, which was a treasure for archaeologists and anthropologists, as the Romans customarily cremated their dead.

If you make it to Naples, I highly recommend a trip to Herculaneum; in addition to, or in lieu of Pompeii.

In which I meet Bill Nye The Science Guy

Bill Nye the Science Guy

Back In The Saddle

Some of you younger folk might not get the reference, but not only is “Back In The Saddle” an Aerosmith song, since I ride an amoeba I think it fits.

I’m using this first post back to give you a heads up on a few things.  Continually two of my top posts I get are from search engines. *tangent* I always anticipated this site being.  I know that there’s not much regular audience in this content, but I want people to search for info they need and land here. /*tangent* The two posts I usually get the post hits on are the posts that feature my rendition of a generic animal cell and Pasteur’s disproving of spontaneous generation.

That said, I know I’m not an artist, but I also know I’m a pretty good teacher. And if people are looking for these images I will try to incorporate more of them going forward. The difficulty lies in a combination of my artistic ability and finding images that can be simplified.  Keep an eye out for more though!

Anyway, it’s been a while, so let’s get into some science!!!

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