Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmasy things

After 3 days of significant rain and thunderstorms, today it was clear and sunny.  With the passing weather, moods all around lifted and changed.  Also, I spent the majority of my day today working on analyzing some of the data from our experiments, involving tinkering in excel and R.  I made some kick-butt graphs, and I think really surprised my boss dude.  I even came out ahead on a "discussion" with him about whether or not rotations of vectors in space are the result of a linear transformation or not (they decidedly are).  That was a small victory for mathematics; maybe one more ecologist will be conscious of the appropriate use of terms now... just maybe.  I think a good part of my lethargy and gloomy mood the last several days was related to spending all day counting repeatedly to twenty (sorting and counting seeds).  With an adequate diet for my brain, I'm feeling much better.

I really dig mistletoe.  Can't remember ever really noticing it back home, but down here, now that the leaves are mostly off all of the trees finally, there are little spheres of greenery scattered about the branches of the oak trees, high off the ground.  Mistletoe.  Parasitic plants are sooooo cool.

Yesterday was the annual Christmas party at the Forest Service unit I'm affiliated with.  The whole cast of characters was there, ranging from researchers, natural resource managers, forest fire crews, maintenance and administration.  The office curmudgeon (Bob), was in classic form.  The Christmas party consisted of a luncheon, during which bad christmas jokes were told, and one employee played an Appalachian dulcimer with moderate success (he knows exactly 3.5 songs, and played them all).

The highlight of the event was a game known as "Dirty Santa" or "Yankee Swap" (depending on how southern a person is I guess).  I'd never heard of it before, but it was pretty hilarious.  The general idea is that everyone participating brings a small wrapped gift of some sort; all gifts are placed under a tree, and each person gets a number.  The first person picks a present, and opens it.  The next person in line can either open a new present, or steal the already revealed present.  If your item is stolen, you can then either steal from a different person, or open a new package.  And so on.  Combine a bunch of characters with a random assortment of presents ranging from desirable (multi-tools, crock pots, food goodies, sandwich maker, socks) to entirely humorous (santa claus toilet seat cover, rapping reindeer, rubber chicken, ceramic angels, singing frog in cardiac arrest), and the potential for theft, and hilarity ensues.  I haven't laughed hard enough to cry in aaaages.

Some favorite moments:

- manly firefighter opens a bag, revealing a decorative (and rather feminine) glass container of bath oil.  Reading the label out loud, he says "smells like fresh linen.....!?!?"

- tough female firefighter pulls a reindeer stuffed animal out of a bag, holds it up examining it, and accidentally triggers a switch, causing the reindeer to start wiggling around and rapping a christmas song.  She must have jumped about a foot and almost lost control, haha.

- Bob opens one of those U shaped neck pillows with built in massager... this is totally his type of thing (he's re-arranged his office so you have to walk all the way in and around a partition to actually see him, and everyone's sure that he frequently takes naps back there).  Predictably, the neck pillow gets stolen after a few rounds, and, opening a new parcel, Bob ends up with a matched pair of small ceramic angels instead of his nap pillow...

- in the final play of the game, a humorous character gets stuck with the rubber chicken (and now is honor bound to foist it on someone next year apparently).

This weekend is going to be intense.  I've got a half week of work next week, followed by a roughly 4 day trip back north, involving a grad school visit and meetings (gulp), and visiting several friends, as well as hopefully a visit with Eugenie!  Which is enough to make anyone excited.  However, in the mean time, I've got a grad school application to finish, a final draft of a paper to complete, a rescue mission to a nearby state to pull off, and two going-away dinners the next two nights.  Plus packing.  It's gonna be a busy one!

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