Sunday, November 3, 2013

Spelling Fail 11/3

My local paper is always good for a laugh....
I don't think that's the word you were looking for....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Research: The Lab

So you've seen where I it's time to learn more about what it is that I actually do.

As mentioned in my last blog, I collect samples in the Maryland and Virginia coastal bays. What that means, is that I tow a plankton net and collect a sediment sample at each site, as well as getting the environmental data.

Drying the ethanol out of the DNA samples.
Alcohol breaks down DNA, hence why you can sterilize
stuff with it.
Like open wounds.
Those plankton and sediment samples are taken back to the lab. The sediment samples are stuck in the freezer...indefinitely at this point. I am more concerned with the plankton samples...and I don't want to work with dirt.

So the plankton samples come back to the lab and I purify them so that all that remains is the DNA from the organisms that were present in the original sample. This process entails a lysis step, which means the cells get broken up, so that access to the DNA can be granted. It also involves an RNase step and a Proteinase K step. These steps are where the RNA and proteins are broken down and ultimately removed from the final product. Thus, I end the multi-hour process with 200 micro-Liters of clear liquid, which hopefully has some DNA in it. For those of you who don't know, a micro-Liter is 0.000001 Liter.

Pipette tips; pretty much the least cool thing ever.
That's why you need instagram filters.
Now I've got a tube with some clear liquid in it....which I hope has some DNA. Even better, if it has the DNA of the specific parasite I work with. So how do I figure out if it's in there?

That's where the real science comes in!

We use PCR, which stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction, to amplify the DNA in our sample. And, depending on what we put in to the reaction, we can amplify specific strands of DNA. So I can amplify only the DNA of the organism I work with, or I can amplify the DNA of any organisms that belong to a broader group. A group might be anything from all vertebrates (Phylum: Chordata) to just mammals (Class: Mammalia).

No, these are not my hands.
The way PCR works is that we create a master mix that has all the essential building blocks of DNA. That means the nucleic acids and some salts. It also means the taq polymerase that will do the actual building of new DNA and the primers that identify the region of DNA that is to be amplified. Each sample is put into a small tube with some of this master mix, and placed inside a thermocycler which heats and cools the DNA so that it can replicate.

If you remember basic high school biology, DNA is double stranded and coiled into a helix. It's made up of 4 nucleic acids, Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine and Thymine. A binds to T and G binds to C. Thus, when you split a strand of DNA, you can rebuild the other side following the base pairing. That means you started with one strand, split it and ended up with two strands. The next reaction will leave you with 4 strands and the one after that will leave you with 8 strands. This means we are exponentially amplifying the original DNA.

So why are we trying to amplify the DNA? Well, we are working with such small quantities, that we need a lot in order to actually visualize the DNA. So basically, we don't know if the DNA we want is present in our sample, but if it is, we want to increase how much is there, so we can actually detect it.

This is an issue because with the type of PCR we do, called end point PCR, the ultimate verification is pretty simple and easy to mess up.

This is what a gel looks like when you get desperate
 and take a picture of it with your phone.
Actually, maybe 'ethidium bromide' should be an
instagram filter..
When our amplification is done, we load the DNA into a gel. The gel is made with agarose (think know, like gelatin but only not for eating) and a small amount of ethidium bromide, which fluoresces under UV light.

Once the DNA is loaded in the gel, we run electrical current through it. It kind of looks like we are hooking the gel up to a car battery and since DNA has a negative charge, it move from the negative end to the positive end. As the DNA moves through the gel, is picks up the ethidium bromide AND separates out into different chunks; because the smaller pieces of DNA move faster than the bigger pieces. We make sure to put in a DNA ladder, which breaks out into known pieces of DNA, so we know approximately how big our unknown pieces are, and we also put in something that we know has the DNA we want to look at, so we have a reference for samples that are positive.

So we go through all this work to look at a chunk of jello and decide, 'Is the DNA I am looking for here, Y/N?'
The positive is positive, the negative is negative and Site 10 is also positive...
So I do all this work and all I get is a yes or no answer. We don't get to know how much DNA is present or what form it is in (you know, like a living organism or a dead organism). So this information can only take you so far....but at least we can monitor when and where we see our parasite.

While all this is interesting, it's just basic now I have to do something to make this project a little more novel.

And that's what I'll talk about in my next blog within this series...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Research: The Setting

I figured some of you might actually be interested in what I spend my days doing as a Graduate Research Assistant, so I'm going to write several blog posts talking about just that. HOORAY!

Yes, this map will be in every paper I publish.
First, and foremost, I'm working on my Master's degree. The program is the Marine Estuarine Environmental Science though the University of Maryland. This program is a research program, so I have to do research, generate data and publish papers.

Ok? Ok.

Moving on.

The research that I do takes place in the coastal bays of Maryland and Virginia. These are the inland bays that separate the barrier islands, like Assateague and Ocean City, from the mainland.

As part of my research, I collect plankton (the tiny stuff that floats around in the water, including plants and animals) and sediment (you know, dirt and stuff) from 18 different sites throughout the coastal bays. These sites range from southern Ocean City (Site 1), to the mouth of Chincoteague Bay (Site 13).
Southern Ocean City; where the houses cost more than I would make in...
30 years at my currently pay rate. That's depressing.
It may seem like the numbers are out of order, and they are. These sites are ordered as such because they are part of the National Park Service's Bay Water monitoring program. The National Park Service maintains Assateague National Seashore and Assateague State Park, so keeping an eye on what's going on with the water is important. The program started with monitoring just a few sites and has expanded to the 18 different sites they currently monitor. 

Doing the science. By which I mean, writing
 down what the machine tells me.
When I am talking about monitoring, I am referring to water quality. This includes temperature, salinity (the amount of salt in the water), dissolved oxygen, pH, chlorophyll and turbidity (how cloudy the water is). Luckily, I don't have to drink the water to figure out how salty it is; we have a machine to do it for us.

We use a YSI to measure all of these things. The Park Service uses this information to see how the bays are doing and how they are changing over time. I use the data to compare with my plankton and sediment samples to see if there are correlations. Basically, is there a certain temperature above which we don't see a certain organism or a certain salinity below which we don't see the organism?

All of that work though, is done back in the lab. I'll tell you all about that later.

Damn you kids, get off my lawn!

Once a month, for two whole days, I get to leave the lab and go play on the water.

There are ponies. And pelicans. And moon jellies. And sun.

Often, there is sunburn.

But it's awesome. Because science is awesome.

These things are the size of dinner plates. And they sting.
AND THEY ARE AWESOME. Unless you're swimming.
Then they are less awesome.
And maybe, someday, my name will actually make it in to print because of the things I do here.

In the meantime though, I'll just keep getting paid to play on the water.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Racial Stereotyping is SO 'in' right now!

So I found an article the other day entitled "15 pictures that prove white people shouldn't dress as other races". I've apparently been spending too much time browsing the forums, because I was expecting hilarity. What I got was a lecture on how degrading it is for one race to dress as another which ultimately trivializes their experiences.

"Hey, foxy lady. I brought you this carriage.
I hear bitches love carriages."
And some hilarious pictures. While the blog was an interesting one, with some interesting thoughts about race, I had my heart set on something a little more lighthearted.

Since the photo captions on Cracked are basically my favorite part of every blog posted over there, I decided to give some of the photos from this article a few of my own captions. I hope you find them as hilarious as I do.

For more racists fashion, visit my earlier blog post; America's Next Top Racist!

Fashion: cutting up ugly ass 70's peacock patterned curtains since....
uh...well...the 1970's.

There's 'No Doubt' that the premise behind this music video
 was terrible.

The only cake this girl has seen is a rice cake. 
That's because all you'll be getting is coal this year.
And black lung disease. 
Step 1: Buy package of feathers from Michael's
Step 2: Glue onto head
Step 3: Profit.
Hey Michael Jackson! It's opposite day!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Spelling Fail - Week of 8/1

This spelling fail is brought to you by I just wanted to learn about the forest fires blazing through my home state, but instead learned a valuable lesson about the current state of editing in journalism.

Also, who decided "touched off" was so good they had to use it in two separate stories?
Guys, it's not that good. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Our first, and possibly last, day on the water...

Home ship home.
On Friday afternoon, we departed from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and began the first leg of our 12 day journey.

3 hours of driving led us down Route 13 through the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, across the series of bridges and tunnels that span the mouth of the mighty Chesapeake Bay, through Virginia Beach and into Norfolk, VA.

We arrived at the NOAA dock, passed through security, rounded the corned and Voila! Our home for the next 12 days lay before us, quieting floating in the Elizabeth River.

The R/V Gordon Gunter (hey, look! I spelled it right this time), originally built as a Navy ship, the Relentless, is now a scientific research vessel run by NOAA.

For those of you not in the 'NO' (AA), it stands for
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

We load our gear, meet with the Field Operations Officer, and head out into Norfolk to grab a bite to eat. Since there are approximately 14 of us eating dinner, we don't get back to the ship until 11 pm. Everyone heads to bed of a night of uneasy sleep in this loud, unfamiliar place.

We've already made a mess of the place.

The cabins we are in are surprisingly spacious, with a dresser, a desk, a chair; all the comforts of home. Actually more, since I don't have a desk at home, unless you count the coffee table. We were all pleasantly surprised by how nice the accommodations were.

During lunch, we realize we are in the process of getting underway. We head up to the flybridge, a small observation deck above the bridge, where we can check out the port and take pictures as we are leaving.

Norfolk is a major port on the Atlantic Coast and has an extremely large military presence. I guess that's sort of a "DUH" for most people, but coming from the West Coast (in particular, Oregon), the whole Navy thing is pretty new to me. Like, I knew it existed, but I never really saw signs of its presence. Sort of like Santa Claus. A well armed Santa Claus.

Leaving Norfolk behind....or so we thought.
At 12:30, we have a meeting to go over our watch assignments and the projects we'll all be working on. Everyone is eager to hear about when their allotted bedtime is for the next 11 days. The watches are from noon to midnight and midnight to noon. No one is quite sure which is better, but I am pretty sure I couldn't handle a midnight to noon shift....but if that was my shift, I'd have to adjust.

Luckily, I was assigned to the noon to midnight shift....not that it matters.....

Is that an ATAT? You'll have to ask
George Lucas....

Upon arriving to our meeting, we are informed that a component in the engine room ventilation system has broken and we are returning to the dock. This repair may take some time, but we won't know until they can take the part out and see what was wrong.

So we were on the water for approximately 2 hours...and that's all we've done so far. Other than wait around, hoping to hear one way or the other, what the next 11 days has in store for us. Make that 10 now....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Influenster: Mary Kay.

So I'm not exactly what you'd call a girly girl.

But I do like free things. So of course I signed up for, which provides me with free samples of stuff to try out. Most recently, they sent me a box full of Mary Kay products.

I occasionally wear makeup, especially when I have to present in front of students or fellow scientists. It helps me feel good and ensures that I can focus on the work I am presenting and not worrying about how I look. Hey, you stand up in front of 50 middle school students without feeling like they aren't scrutinizing you.

They are.

I am actually pretty excited about this box. I have never been one to buy in to the whole catalog product thing. Frankly, I've always thought of Avon and Mary Kay in the same category, which is entitled "stuff my grandmother liked". Not that this means I can't like them too, but when it comes to makeup and perfume, we had very different tastes.

I don't want to smell like an old lady.

This is Mary Kay's chance to prove to me that it's more than just my Grandma's makeup.

Included in the box was lipstick, lash primer, mascara, eye color and a brush for application.

So now I have all this new makeup to play with...just in time for me to go on a research cruise!

Friday, June 21, 2013

A 3 hour cruise....

Actually, it's 11 days...and it's not so much a cruise...but whatever.

I will only agree to go if this man is the captain.
Next week I am heading to Norfolk, VA to participate in a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) research cruise through my University. I, and several of my classmates, will be living aboard the R/V Gordon Gunter for 11 days. Each day, we will trawl for monkfish and red crabs as part of two separate research projects. The goal is for us to get some experience at sea and with various techniques, as well as to allow work on projects involving species we might not normally see in the Chesapeake Bay or Maryland and Virginia Coastal Bays, where we typically work.

The boat we'll be aboard is 224 feet and designed for research with lots of fancy technical equipment onboard. This means lots of buttons to push and things to break. Hooray!

Honestly, this should be a pretty cool experience.

I am stressing out though, because it's a long time to be away from home and, as with most things with my school, everything is happening at the last minute. This includes getting fingerprinted....

So, there's lots of little things that need to get done before we embark on our journey of learning, but they will all get done. In the meantime, it's Friday, so I'm going to have a beer, enjoy the sun (It is the longest day of the year today. Happy solstice!) and try to relax.

Also, enjoy this picture of a crab. Because I said so.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Writing Challenge: Accepted (And Promptly Ignored)

When Kristen came to visit me in January, I expressed my need to write to her. I want to create something. I'm not very artistic (my stick figures, including the women, all have penises and I can't color within the lines) when it comes to drawing, painting, or crafting. Think Jackson Pollock or Rothko. That would be the extent of what I could do, except take out the high price tag and the gallery wall space.  

Anyway, Kristen responded by being extremely supportive and then issuing me a writing challenge: 12 short stories over the course of 12 months. The point isn't to churn out perfectly edited prose. The point is to get my ideas on paper (er. . .a glowing computer screen) and then worry about the editing part later. When she suggested this to me, I was thrilled. It was like I had a sense of renewed purposed. I was all like: 

So, now that it's basically the middle of June, just how far have I gotten on said challenge?

The sad truth is. . .not that far.

So far I have two complete stories. Just two. I have another one that I've been editing and would be a third in the collection.

I have several ideas where I've outlined them, brainstormed a beginning, middle, and end, and even fleshed out characters. When I sit down to write those stories, however, my inspiration deserts me and I'm left with the same blank, glowing screen.

This would be me if it were in the early 90's, only exchange the cigarettes
for a box of crayolas and the coffee for  a Capri Sun.
So basically nothing is the same, really.
Photo Credit.

It has been my dream for a while now to publish a novel. I've been inspired my mother who used to write columns and stories. She would read them aloud and sometimes act them out for us.  My cousin wrote a full length novel about her travels through Africa with her husband that won the Indie Book Award for best memoir. Hell, I'm even really impressed when my friends get their thesis papers published about astrophysics. All of these people put their creativity, effort, and brainpower into something and can then look at their work with a sense of pride and accomplishment. It's a physical manifestation of creativity that gives the creator a small sense of legacy. Even after they're dead, they created a written work that could be read and enjoyed by someone later. That's pretty amazing!

In addition to Kristen's writing challenge, I'm also trying to decide what I want to attempt this year for National Novel Writing Month. If you haven't done NaNoWriMo before and you have the burning desire to write a novel in one month. . .do it. It's a simple concept: You write a 50,000 novel in one month. That's 1667 words a day. Now before you're all like, "AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT" remember that most people can type at least 30 words a minute if they went to school and had to sit through countless hours of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.

Maybe one of my short stories should be about how much I hated this fucking game. 
I plan to make NaNoWriMo extra credit when I teach high school English. Many high school students are just bursting with emotions, creativity, and they're trying to find a way to express themselves and their individuality. I can't think of a more productive way for students to spend their time. I think I probably need to stop idealizing the teaching profession and pretending my life will be exactly like Freedom Writers. For the record, though, I was able to complete my novel the first year, but unable to in 2011 and 2012. Here's looking at 2013 for some success.

I wish I could say I was a winner. 
Thus concludes my writing update. If someone knows of a good way to keep up motivation while writing, I would LOVE to hear it. If someone knows how to make millions of dollars with little to no effort, I would also love to hear that. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A roller coaster of learning.

So I've officially been a full time graduate student for 3 semesters. That's a whole year and a half of research! Since this has basically been my life for the last 18 months, I feel like I should have written a few blogs about this aspect of my life...but it hasn't really come up so far.


Yes, that's right. I'm going to blog a little about my life as a graduate student. I know you are all
sitting on the edge of your seats right now.

Graduate school: a non-stop roller coaster of fun and learning.
This past week, I spent three days out at our Coastal Ecology Lab working with high school students for educational programming. Since I am funded through an NSF grant, part of the deal is that we partake in outreach programs involving high school and undergraduate students. These can include field trips for classes or summer research interns.

What's in YOUR water?
This past week was a program that brings local teachers to our campus for a two week professional development program where they create a science curriculum for their students, culminating in hands on activities. This is what brought nearly 200 students to our lab over the course of the week.

Having worked with students before in an outdoor education setting, this was a nice throw back to what I was doing before grad school.

I have always found it frustrating though, to only work with students of a few brief hours. There are always the students who are eager to learn and those who are eager to be the center of attention. You get these tiny little glimpses into who they are and the kind of help they might need to be successful students and eventually adults....and there's not really a whole lot you can do in the small amount of time you have with them.

I guess the only thing you can really hope to accomplish is create a spark of interest or excitement in them, one that their year 'round teachers can help encourage, or that they choose to pursue on their own. Another benefit to programs like this is to help students get an idea of what higher education is like, which will hopefully encourage them to pursue it. Because I go to a Historically Black College/University (HBCU), I feel like this is especially pertinent because we cater to a more diverse population of students, both in terms of our outreach and in terms of the current undergraduate and even graduate population at the school.

As a future PhD student with a possible career in academia awaiting me, I just hope that I can find students who have been encouraged to pursue their fields of interest before they get to college. This means parents who were supportive, as well as teachers who encourage a love of learning and allow students to explore potential career paths and interests.
I love learning. So. Much.
Now I can understand why a teacher would jump at opportunities to get their students out of the classroom and doing hands on activities...much to the chagrin of some of my fellow grad students, who would rather be doing research and otherwise hastening the arrival of their graduation date. Some of us though, plan on continuing on in academia, so outreach programs like this give us valuable teaching experience and a chance to develop our own curricula.

I guess I can understand why outreach activities might be tied in to research grants too now...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The 5 Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading

It's been quite a while since I've written regularly. Much of that probably has something to do with school. (Which, by the way, I totally passed all my classes.) Now that I've got a bit of a break, I thought it might be a good idea to start blogging again. You know, because blogging is fun and I enjoy it.

In my previous post about reading, I said I'd try and read more this year. Perhaps you're wondering how that's going. To be honest? I'm not sure. I started out, as I do with most things, in a flurry of enthusiasm and excitement. Never let it be said that I'm not a passionate person when it comes to ideas. What I lack is follow-through. As such, you might not find it surprising that I've been less than good on my goal to read 30 50 books this year. Here is where I'm at:
Add Snow Crash to this as well. 

Obviously you can also see this on The Great Readathon 2013, but a visual aide is so much nicer.

So as motivation for me to catch up and get back on track, I'm going to do a quick list of the next five books I'm going to read and why I'm excited about them.

1. Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
I am fairly sure that this book has been recommended to me more times than any other book ever. Every time I mention that I'm in the market for a new novel to read, I get this one thrown at me. A friend linked me to this, which is what I'm hoping I'll be like after I read it:

I don't know who Andrea is but her review is amazing. 

2. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven - Sherman Alexie

I've love Sherman Alexie ever since I read What You Pawn I Will Redeem. His short fiction is pretty amazing and his observations about post-colonialism on small populations are pretty fantastic. I think what makes me respect him, though, is the way that he discussed those topics. He uses humor to make a very uncomfortable subject (addiction and depression in Native American communities, for instance) approachable. He wants the reader to see and hear his perspective, but not shame them. I respect any author who can write about a cause they care about and never seem preachy.  

3.  Alif the Unseen - G. WIllow Wilson
I just finished Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson and I enjoyed it. It was like reading an action film, only one that got down and dirty about sex, religion, being a metaphorical sheep in society, and examined the nature of true uniqueness and originality. Since I love the setting of the middle east and the cultural aspects therein, I thought this book looked fantastic. It was also written by a woman, which you'll notice is the only book on this list where that is true. Apparently it won several awards and is somewhat of a breakout novel. I think I'm also excited about this book because it has some of that Haroun and the Sea of Stories vibe I've been missing since the last good book I read by Salman Rushdie. 

4. Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut
Out of all the authors I've wanted to read but never have, Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac are tied for first place. Everything I've read about them seems interesting. I've just never started a novel by them. Maybe that's a lie. I think I read the first 5 pages of Slaughterhouse Five once. It's sitting on my floor right now, waiting to be read as well.

The biggest reason I'm going to read Breakfast of Champions right now, however, is because I received it in the mail from the coolest Book Exchange redditgifts matchup partner ever. That's enough of a reason to make the cut.

5. Dog Days, Volume 2 - Gene Gregorits
I've known this author for at least 6 years. I met him through my roommate in Baltimore. I have pictures somewhere on Facebook where we're drunkenly jumping over mailboxes together. Hell, he even helped us move out of our place. That's why it's almost criminal that I haven't read Dog Days Volume 2 yet. He has been a journalist/author for a long time and he has been compared to Celine, Bukowski, and Hunter S. Thompson. That's convenient, since the book I'm reading right now is Fear and Loathing in Last Vegas.

I told Gene that I never got my copy of Dog Days Volume One in the mail (He sent me Midnight Mavericks instead, which is a series of interviews with big names like Patton Oswalt and The Kills. You know, nbd) so he sent me digital copies of both Dog Days 1 and 2 with the cryptic message informing me that I should consume the second volume while intoxicated. I read and reviewed the first one, and now after reading Fear and Loathing, I think I have a better idea of what I might be in for.

I recently wrote an article for class and interviewed Gene about self-publishing and the obstacles inherent in being an author and trying to write for a living. He's an interesting guy and if you're interested in reading something gritty, dark, and a little bit crazy* I recommend checking him out.

*Note: I earned the right to call him and his work crazy long ago when he said a quote that will live in infamy:
"You know? You're not pretty enough to be a bitch."
Harsh toke, Gene. Harsh. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Let Us Ford Rivers, Wear Gingham, and Build Planters

I mentioned, at some point, that I am living in Hawaii, taking care of a gorgeous piece of property while the owners finish out their careers and wrap up loose ends. While the land has many edibles already (macadamia nuts, passion fruit, papayas, and guavas) what it was really missing was a more savory element. I mentioned to a friend that what I really wanted was to plant some vegetables and herbs but I wasn't sure how to go about doing it while keeping out a very adorable duck and four mischievous feral chickens. 
Delicious home-grown guava!

Apparently making a planter is a lot easier than I thought. At first I was tempted to buy one premade with a minor amount of assembly required. However, it would end up being quite a bit smaller and, perhaps more importantly, I couldn't brag to everyone I meet that I actually made one myself.

After a trip to Home Depot, $43, and borrowing one power tool, we were set.

List of Materials:
6 5/8 in. x 5 1/2 in. x 6 ft cedar boards (Make sure they don't have any splits in them. Also, cut TWO of those boards in half. ($19)
1 7 or 8 ft post-like piece of wood, cut into 4 even chunks ($3)
1 inch small screws ($3)
1 1/2 inch small screws ($3)
2 long-ass PVC Pipes ($2.50 each)
Bird netting ($10)
Twine, zip-ties, string, paper clips
Dirt/soil/cinder (Free. . .? I hope?)

Ok, so this is how easy this is: (My instructions are written like I am a third grader. Pretend I am a third grader.)

1. Line up 2 6ft planks parallel to each other. Put a post at the end and line it up so it looks straight/classy.

2. Screw 2 small screws though each board into the post-like piece. Repeat on opposite side of the boards with another post thing.

You were supposed to take that beer step seriously. 

3. As you're drinking your beer, do the exact same thing again as above so you have another side of your planter.

4. Take two half-planks of wood and line them up on either end of your planter so it looks like you're making a rectangle.(Hint: You are.)
The end of the half-planks should line up with the post-like things (and the end of the longer cedar planks).

5. Use the same small screws, 2 screws per board per side, to create the third wall of the planter.

6. Do the same thing on the other side.


So then you have the option to get real fancy and put PVC pipe on the side so you can hang bird netting over your garden.  Is that a thing you want to do? If yes. . .

7. You need to get a drill bit a tiny smidge larger than the circumference of your longer screws. You have to drill the holes in the PVC pipe first otherwise apparently things are crazy and the plastic explodes and people die. Sad.
Anyway, make 3 holes at each end of the pipe, about 2.5 inches apart. Do so for both pipes.

8. Take a long screw and screw the PVC pipe to the side of the exposed post-thing. If you're doing it right the bottom of the PVC pipe will touch the top of the long side of the cedar planks. If that doesn't make any sense, just look at the final product below and it should be clear. Use remaining other 2 screws in the pre-drilled holes.

9. Bend the PVC pipe toward the outward-facing side of the post-thing. Repeat Step 8. It should kind of look like the frame of a covered wagon. You can put on your best gingham dress and braid your hair.

Before you do that, though, make sure you do the exact same thing with the PVC pipe and the screws to the other side of the planter. Then it will REALLY look like the frame of a covered wagon.

This duck REALLY wants to be in your planter.
10. Drape some bird netting over the side of your covered wagon and tie it off with string or something. Really, whatever works for you aesthetically? Just as long as it's relatively difficult for a bird-creature to roll around in your planter and fuck up your Christmas. 

That's it! You have your planter. WE MADE THINGS. TOGETHER!

Oh, or you could figure out what to do by watching a video or something

My planter is 11 inches high, giving plenty of room for root vegetables if I decide that's what I want to do later.

 Plant List!

Pineapple Sage
Sweet Basil
Trailing Rosemary
Ghost Peppers (x2)
Zucchini (Ok, so they're going to be a bit too big for the planter. Instead, I made 3 dirt mounds, put in the seeds, and I'm hoping for something glorious. I already have one sprouting!)
Spinach (From seeds)
Arugula (From seeds)
String Beans (From seeds)

Also part of the clan, but so far un-planted are:
Thornless Blackberry
Coffee Plants (This is Hawaii. Of COURSE it grows well here.)

I'll (hopefully!) do an update again sometime soon to see how this works out!