March 31, 2011

Winner of the Beatrice Tote Bag Giveaway

Congratulations to Gretchen M, winner of the incredibly fashionable Beatrice the Biologist tote bag! As promised, here is your sonnet, written in nearly perfect iambic pentameter:

Now, if you didn't win, you might be feeling like this...

or maybe even this...

But fret not! There will be many more Beatrice giveaways, so you'll get yours!  I mean, you know... a prize.

Thank you to everyone who participated! Your comments, Facebook wall posts, and tweets are endlessly appreciated. They inspire me to keep posting!

March 22, 2011

Black Widow Hunting

I am not as frightened of spiders as the average person. I definitely don't want them on me, but I really don't mind if one is around. They're just part of life; part of nature. I'm cool with them. Here is some proof:

I got a hand-me-down TV stand from someone who wasn't big on cleaning things, but I moved it into my room secure in the fact that it didn't harbor any arachnid stowaways.

Months later, I dropped something on the floor near it, and when I bent down to pick it up, I looked into one of the cupboards more closely than ever before and noticed a bright orange spider sitting on its web in the upper corner of the unit.

I froze and considered this situation. I stared at the spider, sizing him up, deciding where this sat on the danger scale. Again, I'd had this piece of furniture in my room for months, and I'd never seen this spider or gotten a bite, so I could only assume he'd been content to stay on his web and feast on the surely copious insects I had in my dingy apartment.

As if the spider understood English, I spoke to him and said, "Okay, clearly you've been here a while. I'm going to pretend I didn't see you. You keep eating bugs, and we'll leave each other alone. Cool."

So with this context, consider the following story:

I had dinner with my aunt, cousin, and sister. Good times all around.

When we headed back to the car, cousin and sister got in first. I was about to open the door and place my buttocks in the car as well, but just then, my cousin turned to me from inside the car, and through her muted screams I heard her say, "Don't get in the car!"

I looked at her inquisitively.

She threw open her door and ran to me.

I opened my door to look underneath the driver's seat--where cousin had last seen it--for said black widow and saw no such thing, but I did notice that there was a rather elaborate and ominous web in the foot area of the back seat... where my feet had been on the way to the restaurant.

I started moving various car floor items out of the way looking for the spider, while all of us experienced things like this:

I borrowed my aunt's plastic drinking cup to poke around under the seat, planning to trap the spider when I found it.

About 10 minutes later, I had moved into the car and was still searching for our visitor. I was focusing so intently on the floor area where Danielle had seen it, that I didn't notice the spider was right in front of me on the back of the seat.

I know I said that I'm not terribly afraid of spiders. But this spider was beefy and enormous, and I didn't want to get my hand anywhere near it for spider-murdering or spider-retreival missions. But we couldn't all get back in the car until it was dealt with, so...

"I'll try to get it in the cup!"


"It went into the fold of the seat!"

My aunt shoved a folder into the butt of the driver's seat to force the spider back out.

"I almost have it!"

All the screaming and spidery jibblies were making my hands start to shake. Why couldn't this stupid spider just get in the cup?!

I walked a few steps away from the car and tossed the cup away.  I froze for a moment and realized that the spider may have somehow ejected from the cup while I was mid-throw and might be on my body at this very moment. To rule this out, I approached the just-thrown cup and verified that the spider was indeed inside it.  She was perfectly fine despite her short flight in the cup, but I bet she was confused, not that I could really tell.

The cup disposal was followed by approximately 30 more seconds of fourfold screaming. Then we all hopped into the car and screamed some more.

Finally, we all took a moment to catch our breath. It was over. We had prevailed, and we had a spider-free car as our spoils. Nothing could stop us!

March 17, 2011

Beatrice the Biologist Giveaway!

In lieu of a post this week, I'm doing a Beatrice giveaway! First one ever! Exclamation points all around!

To begin my glorious foray into the realm of online giveaways, I'm starting with this magnificent Beatrice the Biologist tote bag. Look at it, in all it's glory...

This bag is great for putting stuff in.

It has a flat bottom, in case you were wondering (like I was, when I ordered it), so if you put enough stuff in, it stands up on its own! Amazing!

You will be strolling down grocery store aisles in style with this one-of-a-kind bag. Goes great with any outfit.

It can also be worn as an unwieldy, uncomfortable necklace.

Other possibilities include: a ridiculous belt, an oversized hat, and a cape.

Really, the options are only limited by your imagination and the size of your arms.

To be entered into the drawing for this most amazing of prizes, write on the Beatrice Facebook wall (, or mention me on Twitter ( If you hate both of those things, you can leave a comment on this blog post itself. You have oh-so-many options!

On March 31, at approximately 5:37 (aka when I get home from work), I'll draw a winner at random and announce said winner in a Beatrice post. I shall write you a prize-winning sonnet, or I'll just say your name and if applicable, make fun of the way you spell it. I will then contact you for your mailing address so that my mail elves can proceed.

Good luck!

March 10, 2011

Tales of Food Poisoning

Once upon a time, a younger version of myself gathered around the dinner table to partake in Friday pizza-eating festivities with my parents, 2 brothers, and little sister. Pizza time was a magical time.

We devoured 2 large circles of dough and cheese and went about the rest of our evenings.

Approximately 2 hours later, the first inkling of doom crept over us.

One by one our faces lost their youthful glow and we took on a ghostly pallor.

The next few hours was a vomit relay race, but instead of passing a shiny baton to the next competitor, you exchange commiserating grunts as you enter and exit the bathroom.

"A classic case of staph," my mom told to me later. I know now that she was referring to Staphylococcus aureus, a common bacteria. (My mom is super smart, and she made me believe that knowing everything was a prerequisite of adulthood. Turns out it's not.)

My elementary school self wasn't too sure what she was talking about, so she explained that it was a bacteria that live normally on the human body.

I didn't understand why a bacteria that's around me all the time could make me sick. If it's on my skin, why don't I get sick from licking my arm? And perhaps more importantly, why was I licking my arm at all?

Now I know that food poisoning like this happens when food is exposed to bacteria and allowed to incubate. My body can handle the few million bacteria I might lick off my arm, should I choose to do so, but if I ingest a piece of pizza that someone sneezed on and then kept at a bacterially-comfortable 85 degrees for several hours, allowing billions of them to propogate, then my stomach is going to take umbrage at this.

We know a lot about keeping our food safe from microbial invaders. We cook food to high temperatures to kill any bacteria that may already be there, and we keep things in refrigerators to keep bacteria from growing. They hate the cold.

When food poisoning strikes, we often assume the culprit is improperly cooked meat or spoiled dairy, but just as often, it's poorly-handled raw produce.  I once got horrible food poisoning from a glass of beet and carrot juice I ordered at a wellness spa. You needn't point out the irony. I'm well aware.

Once again I will defend my bacterial friends. They don't mean to cause us pain. They just like the same food we do, so this conflict can occasionally arise. But they're not doing it on purpose. They just cause trouble when they wind up where they shouldn't be. If it makes you feel any better, I doubt they're thrilled with the mixup either.