Sitting in a laboratory all day can seem like the perfect job for a shy person, if you only have to deal with a bunch of cells on a slide. They’re not too likely to squawk if you made a bad joke or wear a really ugly tie.

But these days, scientists do more than sit around alone with only their microscopes to keep them company. They often have to give presentations in front of groups — like ones that have money they want — and avoid lame humor and poor fashion choices.

Enter BioToasters, a local organization that’s helping scientists to shed their nerves and learn to embrace their time in front of a microphone and a crowd. We watch as scientists learn.

In other news:

• How much will former downtown redevelopment chief Nancy Graham have to pay for what a commission found to be 18 violations of city ethics laws? $32,000.

That’s about less than 1 percent of the approximately $3.5 million that she made from a business deal that she failed to mention in conflict-of-interest disclosures.

The fine ends a two-year saga that derailed nearly $2 billion in downtown projects, drew FBI attention and almost took down the city’s downtown redevelopment agency.

The whole mess came to light when we asked her about the deal and she lied about it.

Graham managed to avoid the maximum fine of $90,000.

• By an 11-0 vote, a state Senate committee quashed a legislative clause that would have allowed county pension boards to pay people whatever they felt like paying them. That gives the San Diego County pension board one less way to pay a huge bundle to employees, including as much $886,000 to a consultant.

The pension board’s CEO says such huge salaries are necessary to attract qualified people. But two county supervisors have made a stink about the idea of paying people that much when the county’s current top salary, by comparison, is chump change at $274,000.

• The port district’s board has a new member with a familiar last name: He’s Dan Malcolm, a former Imperial Beach councilman and cousin of South Bay politico David Malcolm, a former port commissioner who got embroiled in a conflict-of-interest mess.

By next year, there will be only one port commissioner who’s been on the board since before 2009.

• Ah, July. The thoughts of the young and old turn to the joys of mid-summer. And, of course, home purchases. Housing sales usually pick up. But not this year: as real-estate columnist Rich Toscano discovered, last month was an anomaly.


• There’s some rare good news from SDG&E about what it charges you: the company will refund customers as much as $120 million next month due to overcharges. If you live on the coast, the NCT says, you’re likely to get about $25 back, while inlanders can look forward to approximately $15.

• The pro football season is almost here, and coaches are sure to pay close attention to a USD professor’s study of “icing” — psyching out the opposing kicker in the last minutes of a close game by calling a time out. I’ve written a story about the study, which says icing actually works: it boosts the odds that a kicker will fail to get the ball between the uprights.

• For five years, a retired photographer in La Mesa has been waging a legal battle to get the government of Spain to cough up a French impressionist painting worth an estimated $20 million. He says his grandmother gave up the painting in Germany — where he grew up — under duress from the Nazis.

Now, a federal appeals court has ruled the man can continue fighting the case. The Pissarro painting, which depicts a rainy-day Paris scene, is now in a Spanish museum.

• CityBeat looks into a new SuperFund site in Sorrento Valley. A defense contractor abandoned more than 2500 chemicals, many unlabeled.

• That paper also takes a look at San Diego’s practice of naming just about every day, week and month after someone or some cause.

So far this year, there’s been a Linares Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution Day, Dysphagia Week, Carol LeBeau Day (isn’t that every day, people?) and Strut for Sobriety Day, among many others.

There’s even a Dora the Explorer Day. It’s tomorrow, so there’s still time to get a greeting card. But the city rejected a Spongebob Squarepants Day.

When’s my ceremonial day? I want one, Mr. Mayor.

If it’s not too late, I’ll arm-wrestle Dora for it. I could totally take that little traveling nuisance.


Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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