Monday, December 31, 2007

Miss Emily's Munchie Madness Monday (Posted on a Tuesday...)

Julia has made a resolution to eat food that is organic or local and I'm going to kick off MEMMM with one of my favorite local meals.

My favorite meal of any weekend day is breakfast. There's nothing quite like the taste of a warm, runny egg yolk or a maple syrup drenched piece of whole grain pancake. Of course, I often forget that eggs, bacon, sausage, grapefruit, orange juice, waffles, pancakes and the like aren't solely breakfast foods and it's rare that I really take the time to eat a nice breakfast.

So, as was customary in my home as a child, I sometimes have breakfast for dinner. And not just any breakfast, but a locally-grown/raised and organic breakfast. J and I had breakfast for lunch the other day and here's what we made:

  • Whole grain blueberry pancakes-locally made pancake mix and local, organic blueberries and local syrup
  • Over-medium fried eggs-local, free-range eggs
  • Maple sausage-local, "all natural" sausages

Miss Emily, who has proven to love tasty human snacks such as Smartfood popcorn, took a peculiar interest in J's sausage links. As a test, we fed her a tiny piece and she just wouldn't leave us alone afterward! She was so persistent that J finally gave in and offered her an entire link.




She was a rabid little thing...




Overall, Emily gives this meal a 7 out of 10. While it could be healthier, it's local farm friendly and tastes great!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New stuff and a teaser...sorta...

On New Year’s Eve, I’ll be posting the first edition of Miss Emily’s Munchie Madness Monday. It will be the first in a new line of posts that are food-related, probably containing recipes and meal ideas. Really, though, the posts will be a vehicle for me to use my new camera and capture my little Persian, Emily, showing her love of people-food. While the theme isn’t really paleo-related, I think it’ll be entertaining and interesting. Also, while I have low confidence when it comes to writing about paleontology, I have all the confidence in the world that I can write a decent post about my cat.

And what’s a blog without the occasional cat post?

What’s this about a new camera, you ask? Well, little did I know as I was lurking about the American Museum of Natural History and experiencing serious camera inadequacy, J had a little Squidmas surprise brewing. A gorgeous new digital camera! It’s a Sony Cybershot DSC-T2 and it’s packed with weird features that may or may not fall into the category of “useful,” like a smile sensor, face detector and “beach” setting. Really, though, the camera is great. It’s got 8.1 megapixels, a seriously long-lasting battery, shoots video in full HD and has a 4 GB internal memory, which means I don’t have to ever worry about filling my memory card. And the best part is the size; it fits easily into my coat pocket so I can carry it everywhere, unlike my last camera, which fit easily into a backpack and was quite cumbersome. I still wouldn’t let my new little toy get into a bare fist fight with Brian’s, but I couldn’t be happier with it.


J's Squidmas wrapping paper.

I got some other nice things for Squidmas as well, all quite nerdy but quite useful, such as the Planet Earth series on DVD, a TI-83 calculator and a tee-shirt featuring Tuojiangosaurus. The tee shirt was a perfect gift, given my history with the dinosaur. *story below

Anyway, today I decided that I just needed more stuff and I took a little trip to Borders and bought myself the following:

· Mozart’s Requiem
· Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World
· Stephen Jay Gould’s Ever Since Darwin
· Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion

I’ve spent a large portion of the day listening to the Mozart album and reading Not in Our Classrooms, which is a collection of essays on Intelligent Design and why it’s not appropriate for our nation’s schools. I’m hoping to finish it soon so I can move on to the books I bought today.




*When J and I went to the Miami Science Museum, I took a lot of pictures of fossils with accompanying voice recordings, so I could correctly label the pictures at home. When it came time to pronounce Tuojiangosaurus’s name, I had a hard time. When I put the pictures on my computer, the voice recordings got saved into Windows Media Player. One night, during dinner with J and a few friends, my voice came on, loud and clear, saying “Tu…Two…Two…Tuo-jango…” It was embarrassing. In a hunt to find me a nice dino shirt, J happened upon Tuojiangosaurus and now I’m forced to pronounce it every time someone looks at the shirt and asks, “How do you say that.” What a clever gift. Ha ha ha. Really, though…it was quite funny.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Okay, okay...

Sorry about the lack of posting. I've been out-of-town this past week on holiday and while I've had access to the internet, I've also had a lot of stuff to do and people to see and a short amount of time to fit it all into! But I'm home now and have a few days off, so I'll try and catch up.

Vacation was (and is) great. I went to NYC for a few days to visit my father, and to Connecticut to visit my mother. While in NYC, I got a chance to meet fellow paleoblogger, Brian "Laelaps" Switek, at the American Museum of Natural History. He was excellent company (and a good tour guide, as he knows vastly more about paleo-stuff, especially related to AMNH, than I do). J and I had a great time lurking the halls of the 4th floor with Brian. We were really happy with the whole experience, which was nice, given that we both tend to have a high level of social anxiety and were afraid we'd be really shy and awkward).


I experienced a lot of camera envy as Brian's camera was scores cooler than mine, but my trusty little Canon held up well, and I got a lot of neat pictures. Here are a few:




From the top...J gaping at some extinct mammal that I can't remember the name of (yes, he's embellishing a bit...he wasn't that amazed), a mammoth skull, Brian checking out Triceratops, and the hips of Apatosaurus.

There's more to come, later....it's funny...the less I have to do, the busier I seem to be.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Florida has been touched by His Noodly Appendage!

Looks like the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has carried out His Noodly Appendage's work well!

Huzzah!

Hopefully the good work will continue and we can keep our scientific standards afloat.

(Hat-tip to Pharyngula)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Check out this blog...

I'm adding this blog to my blogroll. It's so funny that I decided I needed to also let you know in a post. Oh, ouch...the funny....it hurts.

Oh, it's just all so funny...

Here's what AIG's blog had to say about the creation museum's appearance in Mad magazine's list of "20 Dumbest People, Events and Things of 2007" :
The satirists at this magazine may mock the Creation Museum, but this shows clearly that the museum has made a significant impact in the secular culture. No wonder the secularists are worried about this one-of-a-kind museum.
And about making Time magazine's "10 Biggest Religion Stories of 2007" :
For one museum, privately funded, to make such an impact is significant. There is no doubt the Lord raised up this museum as a witness to the world—no wonder we get the opposition we do, even from certain Christian quarters.
Hahahahahahaha! Oh...hee...heh...HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Merry Squidmas!

I love that there's a thing called "Squidmas" and that it's associated with atheism and science. I love how it rolls off the tongue.

This Squidmas, I'm going to see my family, like I always do this time of year. I've got a bunch of great stuff planned:
  • Leave work early on Friday and drive to NYC to see my dad. Possibly meet up with my friend Jayme that night for mischief.
  • Get up without an alarm on Saturday (which still means 7 a.m.) and have coffee. Walk to the American Museum of Natural History and meet up with Mr. Brian "Laelaps" Switek. More mischief.
  • Leave AMNH and go to MOMA, this time for real. *
  • Spend the rest of Saturday night doing whatever I please.
  • Get up without an alarm on Sunday. Laze around. Get coffee. Go to a matinee showing of Avenue Q with J and maybe my brother.
  • Spend Sunday night opening Squidmas presents with my brother, J, my dad and his boyfriend.
  • Get up Monday without an alarm, get coffee and drive to my mother's house in Connecticut.
  • Wake up on Squidmas morning and exchange gifts with my mom, brother and J.
  • Spend the rest of Squidmas doing whatever I please.
  • Wake up on Wednesday morning, laze around, get coffee and eventually head back home.

So lots of great stuff planned...I'll be sure to post photos from AMNH...I have a plan that involves art and paleoblogging and SVP and people that read my blog regularly. But that won't be revealed for another nine months or so.

Really, I'm just excited to have time off, especially with J, since we don't get to wake up and be lazy together EVER. And I'm totally excited to see my folks, my friends, my brother and to meet Brian.

*The last time we went to NYC, J and I walked to MOMA. But we actually walked past it, looked at it and said "oh, there's a sign for MOMA," and then continued on to the Met, which we thought was MOMA. We looked at ancient horse armor, pyramids and medievil art and still somehow though we were at the Museum of Modern Art. It wasn't until we left and looked at a map of Central Park that we realized how dumb we were. So we have this little joke...it's not really a joke...we just laugh about it. A lot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In which I get my first copy of JVP...

Me: "Oh...this is so exciting! It's like paleontologist pornography!"

J: pointing to a figure in the journal..."Is that a coprolite?"

Me: "No...that's part of a skull."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In which I get taken advantage of...

Last night, J, my friend Jamie and I went out to eat at a local restaurant. A half hour or so into our meal, we heard the sound of bagpipes. They got louder and louder and finally, a group of people, clad in red and white clothes came into the dining area. One of them was dressed as Santa, the rest dressed as elves. They announced that they were there to raise money for the local respite house and then sang "Here Comes Santa Clause" while holding over-turned hats under our noses.

After collecting donations, the group filed out and on the way, one of the guys asked us how we were. We were obviously annoyed... J said "We're just trying to eat here" to which the guy responded, "Well, we're just trying to raise money here, selfish."

Note to annoying carol-singing money-raisers:

We do not have to give you money. The fact that we don't want to give you money does not make us selfish. We also do not need to be interrupted in the middle of a dinner we're paying for by a bunch of people who think it's okay to solicit from people in a private establishment. It is not okay to corner us in a small restaurant, damage our ears with your insanely loud music, stand right in front of our table and stick hats right under our noses. It's especially not okay to call us "selfish" if, after you do all those inappropriate things, we decline to give you money. You ruined our dinner. Happy fricken holidays.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Semester Wrap-up...

So all the grades are in and it was an AWESOME semester.

Here're the final grades:

Chemistry final exam: 97%
Chemistry final grade: A

Calculus final exam: 101%
Calculus final grade: A+

My GPA was a 2.0 at the start of the semester...this was due completely to a semester in 2001 in which I did nothing but drink, smoke pot and skip class. Now, after these two classes, it's a 2.71. If I get all A's next semester, I'll have a 3.08.

Then, if I take Geography over again (one of those classes from that first crappy semester) and get an A, I'll have a 3.40. I think I'm going to do that...I just hate that I've got that scar on my transcript. Bad choices...bad consequences.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In which J does something sciency...

(I've been trying to get J to do a guest post for a while and last night he came up with a great idea...so this is his first guest post...sorta...I mean, I'm writing it (and I added in my own little bit with the cat)...but it's totally his idea)

Last night, among the dirty dishes, laundry and cat hair tumbleweeds of the Self-designed Student Household Formation, we found a fossil. It took us several hundred nanoseconds to remove it from the bedroom matrix, but eventually, we had a beautifully-preserved specimen. After some final cleaning and field note-taking we tried to find out where, exactly, the bone belonged. J called the process a "common paleontological game."
Was it part of the mental protuberance?

Perhaps a tooth?
In the end, J decided that the bone was actually a nose spike. However, he had a nagging suspicion that he might someday be proven wrong.


Emily slept through the whole thing. What a sexy little creature...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A is for Academic Awesomeness

Well, school's over for the semester. I'm pretty sad about it since it means not having an hour class-break in my work day. However, it does mean I can do more of the following:
  • paint
  • lay in bed
  • read
  • spend time with friends (though now I have very few...a semester of full-time work plus school will do that)
  • cook healthy meals (versus pizza...every.single.fricken.day.)

Anyway, the real reason for this post is that I wanted to brag about the A I got in my chemistry class. Yup...the professor emailed me today and congratulated me on it. I got 97% on my final and my final grade was 95.7%...

I can die now.*

*But not really. I still have an undergraduate degree to get, a master's to get, a phd to get...and I want to take J to London and Florence before I die. Plus, I still need to read a bunch of books I got from the library, seethe 4th Jurassic Park movie (if it ever comes out), go to the SVP conference and win the lottery. And I can't very well die having never been on a dig...

Evolution as fact...

Okay. I had a disagreement with J the other day about whether or not evolution is a fact. He supports evolution, but claimed that the fact that something is happening doesn't make it a fact. His example was, "if you call someone and tell them I'm at the pizza place, then it's not necessarily a fact to them." (But that doesn't matter because regardless of whether or not that person believed he was at the pizza place, he'd still be at the pizza place)

Another person I talked to agreed with him, stating that the definition of fact mentioned the word truth and she argued that evolution cannot be proven to be an ultimate truth. (But what can? Can't we even argue our own non-existence under this assumption?)

According to Wikipedia, a fact is "something that is the case, something that actually exists, or something that can be verified according to an established standard of evaluation." It goes on to say, "Just as in philosophy, the scientific concept of fact is central to fundamental questions regarding the nature, methods, scope and validity of scientific reasoning. In the most basic sense, a scientific fact is an objective and verifiable observation."

Evolution is a fact in both cases; generally and scientifically. It is the case. It exists. It can be verified. We have mountains of evidence to support it.

The logic isn't too different from that of gravity. Wikipedia says, "...it is a fact that an apple dropped on earth has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet, and the theories commonly used to describe and explain this behaviour are Newton's theory of universal gravitation (see also gravitation), and general relativity."

Likewise, it is a fact that a process (evolution) occurs that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations. The theory commonly used to describe and explain this is the theory of evolution, which includes Darwinian theory.

I call evolution a fact because it is...but also because calling it a theory leads to statements like "it's just a theory."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Seven Things About Me Meme mememememe...

Just when I thought I'd have to quit blogging... *

It's been one of those weeks where I want to post something but then I read everyone else's blogs and I feel totally inadequate so I just don't post. But Brian has tagged me for a meme, so now I have an excuse to post something less-than-sciency; something I know a lot about....me! Here's my lineage...

Father: Laelaps
Grandfather: Greg Laden
Great Grandmother: The Ridger
Great Great Grandmother: Grrl Scientist
Great Great Great Grandmother: Tabor
Great Great Great Great Grandmother: Maya's Granny
Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother: Busha Full of Grace

1. Up until recently, I had a 1979 Honda CM400T motorcycle. I learned to ride about 4 years ago after I got sick of riding on the back of my ex's bike. It got towed about six months ago and I couldn't afford to get it back.

2. I was a model for a few years. I didn't do anything big...just some fashion shows and some promotional jobs. Once Abercrombie and Fitch invited me to a go-see, but then they realized that I'm an old fart (for their purposes) and they smiled politely and thanked me for coming while not-so-secretly judging the crap out of me. Here's one of my portfolio pics:



3. When I was five, I told everyone that my name was Hank. It all started when a women asked, "Oh, what a cute little boy, what's his name?" I asked my dad what to say and he said, "Anything you want." And so I became Hank.

4. I haven't had any alcohol or drugs in almost six years. I do this on purpose. Mostly because once I start doing them I can't stop.

5. I love Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies. My favorites are Pod People, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank and Time Travelers. And of course, I love the shorts as well. I have a Crow T. Robot tee shirt that says "Bite Me." I can't ever make it through an entire movie (I fall asleep), but I just love them...

6. Last January I got really upset at the amount of thought I put into my appearance. I made a resolution to stop wearing makeup, stop shaving, and to stop smoking. So far, I've successfully upheld those resolutions, though I get really self-conscious about the not-shaving thing and it took me a few months to quit smoking. I don't think about how I look nearly as much as I used to.

7. I was a Civil War reenactor in middle school. My friend, Matt, got me into it and we formed the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. We enlisted about ten other kids between the ages of seven and twelve. At our peak, we had authentic uniforms, real muskets/rifles and participated in reenactments . We marched in parades, put on mock encampments and did the 21-gun salute on Memorial Day in my hometown. I think we were the youngest regiment around...and we were good, considering!

Photo from ozarkmerchants.com
And that's plenty, I think...perhaps too much. Anyway, for taggees, here are the rules...

Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
I tag:
I'm not going to put a comment on your blog...just do the meme if you want to (or are struggling for content, as I am).
*UPDATE* I am not going to quit blogging! I only mean to convey my frustration! I pretty much can't breathe without blogging. That's also not true...but I love it and don't want to stop.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pteranodon Jeebus and the Triceratops...

I've been promising pictures of my triceratops painting so, last night, I pulled out the camera and took some teaser pictures. The painting is not, by any means, original. It's actually a painting of a photograph by Chad Shier of the Royal Tyrrell Museum that appears in John Acorn's Deep Alberta. Either way, a lot of time has gone into it (maybe 15-20 hours) and I'm pretty happy with it so far.




Also, below are some photos of J's painting, which I from now on dub "Pteranodon jeebus." J is in an oil-painting class this semester and he had to make a shadow box and use it to paint something abstract. He used our Pteranodon toy and our LED Jesus statue in the shadow box, as well as a bowl and a piece of wood, which you can see in the lower right and left-hand corners. It's rad.



And of course, I couldn't resist posting this fun photo of me as a little girl. I was so cool back then...*sigh* That chubby little hand trying to steal my video game belongs to my little brother, Tyler.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Time for myself, thank you...

As a fledgling scientist...very very fledgling...I find it is sometimes overwhelming to take on the task of writing sciency posts. I don't feel qualified, I don't feel like I have much to offer and I certainly don't feel like I can do anything new and interesting. Those, of course, are all feelings that kept me from initially pursuing a science career so I do my best to work through them and forge ahead. But today I want to just write about whatever comes to mind. I need a post without expectation. I need to write with no end in sight. So that's what I'm doing.

Here's what's going on in my corner of the world (and by "my corner" I mean "my life"):
  • Shopping... Holiday season is here and I'm running around trying to find interesting, personal and meaningful gifts for the people I love. It involves spending lots of money, fighting other drivers for the parking space closest to the downtown area and generally arguing with myself over the fact that I highly dislike religion and still seem to love Christmas.
  • Debating... I'm slowly...okay, quickly...getting drawn into the ID/Evolution debate. I really love it. It's something I feel very passionate about that I also understand and am fairly well-informed on. I've been spending a lot of time reading blog posts about the debate, visiting atheist websites and reading up on Intelligent Design (know thy enemy).
  • Chillaxing... That's J's word for "chilling" and "relaxing." I've been watching movies, mainly "Flock of Dodos" and "Shrek 3." And I've done some more work on my Triceratops painting. It's really coming to life...very 3-dimensional and highly textured. I promise to post some pictures of it soon.
  • Studying... I have a final on Friday and one on Tuesday! Study study study!!!
  • Play-fighting... I get into these wrestling matches with J...they're fun, but then I get hurt and I get all "how could you hurt me?" for a moment (I usually get hurt on the offensive, which is a bit embarrassing and totally my fault). I'm pretty sure my thumb needs a cast. I can't even hit the space bar with it and certainly can't use it to grab anything.
  • Getting worked up over the gender gap... Check out this post at Shakesville. It's pretty interesting. I showed it to a few guys and their reactions were "well, at least they make one for girls" and "but the blue one costs more." I thought that was interesting, too.
  • Battling rashes... Well, not really. The steroid creams have mostly cleared up the eczema, but the dermatographia is alive and well. I was taking antihistamines every night for a few weeks and moved on to the "take as necessary" stage. Unfortunately, it seems they're necessary every night, since one missed night results in weird, puffy red rashes. The clincher: the antihistamines sometimes make me feel like I'm on drugs. And for a recovering drug addict, that's not good.

That's enough from me. Tomorrow I'll post something more sciency. Promise.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Flock of Dodos

I saw Flock of Dodos last night and it brought up a lot of interesting points and prompted some interesting discussion between me and J. I believe this stuff is best dealt with in bullet form:
  • Communication: Randy Olson brought up the point that scientists/academics do not communicate well to the public. The poker game in his documentary backed up his idea; though, as a nerd, I secretly wished I could be part of that game Unfortunately, I don't think that this issue is really as simple as it was presented to be. The question is, how much responsibility does the scientific community have in ensuring public understanding of evolution? We could argue that the responsibility lies solely within the scientific community. Or, we could argue that the public should take a more active role in understanding. Of course, depending on the public to do so would be dangerous; we live in a fairly lazy society that likes easy answers. It takes work to understand evolution and most people just aren't up to the task. Part of the problem is that evolution has remained largely marginalized in textbooks and classrooms. I cannot remember studying evolution in any detail in high school or middle school. Even my biology course for my bachelor's degree didn't include anything. Can we expect the public to know anything in light of the absence of evolution from education? Unfortunately, no. Should scientists then pick up the slack and work extra hard to promote understanding? We need better education when it comes to evolution and science...and unfortunately, that's the debated issue.

  • Anger: There's a lot of anger on the evolution side of the debate. Is this anger detracting from the argument? I've been wondering how this anger comes across to someone neutral on the debate. Is it seen as condescending? Is it justifiable? There's a great post on it at Greta Christina's blog. She gives a ton of reasons to be angry and explains why the anger is not a negative thing and I agree with her that anger is often the single instigator of action and that it is necessary and not unhealthy. I also believe that it can be misdirected, especially when using it to argue a point in a debate. It seems that the anger evident in the Creationism/ID/Evolution debate is also the reason that the argument goes from one of "this doesn't belong in science education" to "you're wrong, I'm right." What we're debating is the teaching of it in public schools, in science classrooms. Our emotions, namely our anger, lead us to engage in debate that borders on the real issue and therefore weakens our argument.
  • Philosophy: J brought up an interesting question about philosophy. His question was, "why do we place more value on science than on philosophy?" I'm not entirely sure what he meant by this, but I think it's something like, "why do we think evolution is correct because it's science and think ID is wrong because it's based in philosophy?" Or, furthermore, "don't humans assign value to science and philosophy?...and if so, how can we say one is more valuable than another?" Perhaps we do value science more (though evidence in this country shows that science isn't necessarily valued by most). If so, I'm inclined to say it's because of the tangible evidence. Where philosophy is pure thought, science is based on the natural world. Regardless, I think his point was that the value we assign is based entirely on our beliefs. This is a slippery-slope. If we can't support one over the other because we can't trust our value-assignments, then what else can we marginalize? In the context of philosophy, we can completely deny our own existence. So what, then, does anything matter? J did bring up the point that philosophy and science are partners more than separate entities, that is has been the precursor for many scientific ideas. So, I do not mean to discount the importance of philosophy.

In all, I thought the movie was pretty fair. It gave a lot of camera time to both sides. It was definitely skewed toward the evolution side, but hell, that's the side that's right. If anything, it made me feel responsibility for eradicating the immense amount of ignorance surrounding the debate. Unfortunately, I've just recently learned enough myself, and I don't feel qualified quite yet to do so.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Young boy dies after judge denies motion to force transfusion...

I was done posting for the day, but reading this post made the little dragon in my belly quite restless. He's chewing at my insides and I am actually finding it hard to breathe. Here's a snippet of what's feeding the little rage serpent:
Earlier Wednesday, Skagit County Superior Court Judge John Meyer had denied a motion by the state to force the boy to have a blood transfusion. The judge said the eighth-grader knew "he's basically giving himself a death sentence."
"I don't believe Dennis' decision is the result of any coercion. He is mature and understands the consequences of his decision," the judge said during the hearing.
"I don't think Dennis is trying to commit suicide. This isn't something Dennis just came upon, and he believes with the transfusion he would be unclean and unworthy."

He died.

You can read about it here, in more detail.

All I have to say is, what 14 year-old is mature enough to make a decision of that magnitude? All of the decisions I made, as an intelligent teenager, were terrible choices. There were so many things I couldn't know then...

Keyword Extravaganza!

In addition to these, Statcounter has discovered some interesting keyword searches that have brought people to my blog. They fall under two categories:

Poop:
  • lab can't poop
  • cat can't poop
  • can't poop around boyfriend

and Alcoholism:

  • does my professor know I'm an alcoholic?
  • I'm not an alcoholic

I guess, then, that this comes as no surprise:

cash advance

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Test results...

The title is a bit misleading; I am, after all, not talking about the results of some important medical test, like a pregnancy test or an HIV test. What I mean when I say "test results" is the results of last night's chemistry test.

It was the fourth and final test before our final exam and we had an entire week off (think Thanksgiving) to study for it. The test covered four chapters of information and dealt with molecular orbital theory, Lewis structures, molecular geometry, periodicity and trends in the periodic table and atomic structure. It was supposed to be a hard exam, and I'm hovering really close to the A-/B+ line, so I studied extra hard, all vacation long. I spent two whole days doing practice problems. I did the practice exam twice and the review exercises three times. I reviewed for three hours last night before the exam.

Our class has decreased in size all semester. Initially, there were 185 students registered. At add/drop, we lost a good chunk of them. I'd say we're currently at about 140 students. I want to believe that we lost the portion of the class that was causing our low test averages, but now I'm not so sure.

We take our tests in a large auditorium and we have two hours to complete them before our pens are ripped from our hands and we're sent on our way to ponder how much of an effect those last incomplete problems will have on our grades. Two hours has never been enough time to complete an exam and double-check the answers in this particular class.

So, you can imagine my surprise last night when at 8:00, halfway through the two-hour allotment, a student handed in his exam and sauntered from the room. Now, the test was much easier than previous tests in that it was largely multiple choice, but it wasn't "leave an hour early" easy. I told myself that he must've just guessed or given up. Still, I kept getting the nagging feeling that I was astonishingly more intellectually stunted than my classmates.

Twenty minutes after the first student finished there was a exodus of almost half of the class! I kept thinking, How could these kids be so smart? and my confidence level was sinking faster than something really heavy in fresh water. I wondered how I could expect to get into grad school with those kids as my competition.

Then something happened that snapped me back into reality and allowed me to focus on the remaining six questions: my professor picked up one of the handed-in exams and smiled. He didn't smile with pride. He smiled because he could tell, with a quick glance, that the exams were crap.

And I confirmed that today by checking our WebCT site. The class average: 57%.

***UPDATE***

My score was 125/140, or 89%. Because of the low grades, we have an opportunity to get an extra 15 points by doing some Lewis structure problems. That's good for me, since that's my strong point. Which, in the end, will give me another 100% test score, making it much more likely that I'll get that A!

More sauropods on the horizon?

Somewhere in Spain, scientists have uncovered what Times Online is calling "Europe's largest boneyard." Not only is it the largest, but it's also diverse, with about 8 species of dinosaurs found so far amid the 8,000 fossils.

Picture from Times Online (reference below)

The boneyard was found in June and has been picked at vigorously since then. It's evidently going to play a big part in the dinosaur extinction investigation.

My favorite part: they've found three or four Titanosaurs! And they've found Titanosaurs with scutes, which has, according to the article, never happened in Europe before. AND they've found "more than 100 individual Titanosaurs"! That's great!

I would like to know what it all implies for sauropods. Do the scutes imply migratory behavior?

As far as I know, there was a land bridge connecting "North America" to "Asia," but I'm not 100% on that. I honestly don't know enough about all of this to have any answers, but I would love to hear from someone who does.

Reference

Thomas CatᎠin. "Dinosaur graveyard may unearth new reasons for their extinction." Times Online. November 29, 2007. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2963586.ece

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Expelled...

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed comes out in theaters this February. The official website describes the movie as such:

"In a scientific world gone mad, EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed is the controversial documentary that will chronicle Ben Stein's confrontation with the Neo-Darwinian machine, exposing widespread suppression and entrenched discrimination in his heroic quest to bring back freedom in our institutions, laboratories and most importantly, in our classrooms, with the help of the world's top scientists, educators and thinkers. "

My blood is boiling.

As far as I'm concerned, the movie is just blatant propaganda. It takes aim at the raw emotion surrounding the idea of freedom. It's very similar to the tactic used by our government in endorsing a war with Iraq, which played on our lingering rage and grief to overpower our ability to clearly evaluate.

It's no secret that we're emotional beings. On a daily basis, I have an internal battle with logic and emotion. Things I know are irrational seem to carry so much weight; so much so that I act on the emotion, despite the logic. I am completely capable of letting emotion direct my actions and beliefs.

And that is why Expelled makes me so damn angry. Rather than using logic and facts to make their case, the ID'ers are relying on emotional prodding. Some people see through it, but sadly, many of those people also know something about the Creationism/ID/evolution debate. It's those folks who haven't been exposed to the debate who will most likely be swayed by Expelled.
And it's possible that the movie will be the only exposure they get, because it's found its place into mass media.

For more on this, check out Brian's post, Someone Call the Wahmbulance: new Expelled trailer. Or just browse the web...there's no shortage of information.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Boneyard Carnival #10!

the boneyard logo

Welcome to the 10th edition of the Boneyard Carnival, a blog carnival to satisfy all of your paleo needs! It's been an exciting few weeks for the world of paleontology and especially for paleo-bloggers!

The big news this past week centered around sauropods and rightly so, as they are certainly some of the most intriguing creatures to ever have walked this planet. Not one or two, but three sauropods graced the media last week!

First, we had the exciting discovery of an amazingly complete Barosaurus skeleton, scattered about in The Royal Ontario Museum. You can read more about the discovery by David Evans in Brian's post, "Bully for Barosaurus" over at Laelaps.

Second was Paul Sereno's fascinating Nigersaurus taqueti, a small sauropod with an unusual mouth and incredibly light skull. You can read more about this strange dinosaur in "Nigersaurus: just when you thought you'd seen everything..." by Anne-Marie at Pondering Pikaia. Also, Brian has a wonderful post, "Nigersaurus Taqueti!," at Laelaps that uses Nigersaurus as a vehicle to explore the history of sauropods in popular culture, their reconstruction and their anatomy.
Photo from SV-POW!

And of course, we can't forget Mike Taylor's baby, Xenoposeidon proneneukus! It's strange, it's awesome and it's based on a single vertebra! You can find posts about Xeno at the following:

  • "Hail Xenoposeidon!" by Matt Wedel at Ask Dr. Vector. A VERY funny post about Xeno with some great photos of Mike and Darren and a whole lot of sauropod love.
  • "Forward-Sloping Alein Earthquake God" by Julia Heathcote-Anderson at The Ethical Palaeontologist. Julia gives a great summary of Xenoposeidon's weirdness and then moves on to rip on Glen Dixon and the rest of the world for their ignorance and lack of scientific literacy. It's well worth a read and will really get your blood flowing! Go Julia!
If you want the detailed dirt on Xeno, you should head over to Tetrapod Zoology where Darren, co-author on the Xeno paper, has written the aptly-named "The World's Most Amazing Sauropod" post. And for even more on Xenoposeidon, you can always go to the famous SV-POW, where Mike Taylor, Darren and Matt take on the difficult job of explaining the ins and outs of sauropod vertebrae. Posts include the following:

Of course, not all things paleo are things sauropod! There's a great post about "The Camel that Walked on Two Legs" at Christopher's Catalogue of Organisms.



In the paleoart corner, Manubu and Zach are shaking things up with some great original illustrations. Head over to Manubu’s Raptor’s Nest to see Albertaceratops nesmoi. Zach (When Pigs Fly Returns) has posted some great drawings of strange sauropods and descriptions of them. There’re three in all, so again, a bulleted list:

Hmmmm. Somehow we've arrived at sauropods again! Moving away, there’s been a great surge in Creationism mockery! You can check out some hilarious photos in this thread, where contestants in John Scalzi’s LOL Creashun Contest have posted their entries. Also, you can head over to John Hawks Weblog to read “Judgment on Judgment Day” a critique of the Nova documentary, “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial.”

On the subject of evolution, some important news regarding the evolution of animals on islands has come out. Archaeozoology has a great post, “Island Rule Refuted” that discusses the recent study.


And if you’re in the mood for some mammal-related palaeontology, mosey on over to Vertebrate Paleontology Blog where Benjamin has posted “On the Origin of Bats.” It’s a list of facts for those who might be interested in studying the ancestry of bats and a sub-list of possible ancestors.

And now on to the social stuff!

National Geographic has an interesting article by John Updike in the most recent issue. Brian takes a good look at the article and also takes some offense to the word “losers.” Read more in “Gah, not the “Buffalo-Backs” again!” at Laelaps. And while you’re there, also check out his post, “PBS’ March of Progress” and explore the common appearance of the March of Progress, from F. Clark Howell’s Early Man, and its effect on our view of evolution.

In the spirit of strange creatures, Matt, Museum Instigator at HMNH Hairy Museum of Natural History, has written “Extreme, Bizarre, Goofy, and Strange: A Brief Review of Offbeat Prehistory in Popular Culture.” I’d summarize it, but the title says it all. It’s fantastic.


And last, but not least, Neil sends us off with some words of wisdom about the overlooked abundance of fossils all around us. Take a trip to Microecos to read “Tu es Petrus,” and then keep your eyes open wide!

That about wraps up this edition of The Boneyard. I hope you enjoyed your stay and I hope that you’ll come again! Stay tuned to Laelaps for more information about the next edition!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanks, Brazen Hussy!

Brazen Hussy over at What the Hell is Wrong with You? has a custom-made Shakespeare quote on her blog and I decided today that I wanted one too. The problem is, I can't decide. I'm just going to post them all. If you want one, you can get one here.

William Shakespeare

As flies to wanton boys, are we to the self-designed student
They kill us for their sport.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:




William Shakespeare

This above all: to thine own self-designed student be true.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:




William Shakespeare

This self-designed student hath a pleasant seat.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Nigersaurus...and a question...












*Credit: Photo © Gabrielle Lyon, courtesy Project Exploration

Science has always been my passion. As a young kid I would capture and observe small animals from the stream in our back yard. Lightning, tornadoes and other natural phenomena fascinated me; I put pictures of extreme weather on my walls and tried, with no luck, to go on a tornado chase for my fifteenth birthday. I told my parents, all throughout my childhood, that I wanted to be a paleontologist.

So I often wonder why I majored in writing and not in a science. And the answer is actually very simple: I was scared. Science is intimidating. It's an arena where everyone is trying to prove you wrong. It's not static. It's dominated by some of the most brilliant minds. It's a field that requires a certain kind of thinking.

I was afraid of science. I was afraid of being proven wrong, of asking the wrong questions. And sometimes I still am. So I have a question. One that may have a painfully obvious answer to some of you. I've been afraid to ask it, but I also want to be a good scientist, and I figure asking questions is the best way to become a good scientist. So here goes...

Nigersaurus had a very pneumatic vertebrae, which made the skeleton quite light (relatively). But Nigersaurus was also very small (also relatively!). So the question (not mine) is, "Why did a small sauropod need a light skeleton?"

My question is, could it be a form of protection? If Nigersaurus was small compared to most sauropods, and most sauropods got their protection from their size alone, would a lighter skeleton allow for a faster sauropod? One that would not have a size advantage?

And that leads me to more questions, as follows:
  • In general, are lighter-boned animals faster than animals with dense bones?
  • Is bone density related to muscle size? I'm assuming that small bones have small muscle attachment sites and than light bones can only handle a certain amount of stress caused by muscle contraction.
  • Would a small sauropod be fast enough to outrun a carnivorous therapod?
  • If not faster, what sort of adaptations would a small sauropod have for defense?
I also wonder, could the light skeleton mean that Nigersaurus was a slender animal? Perhaps it was not as robust as other sauropods, especially given its feeding habits and did not need an especially strong frame to carry its weight.

Anyway, I hope that doing this will help me get over my fear of asking questions and maybe stimulate some good conversation. I'm always afraid to ask questions like this, but really, what do I have to lose?

Reference

Sereno, P. C., Wilson, J. A., Witmer, L. M., Whitlock, J. A., Maga, A., Ide, O. & Rowe, T. A. (2007). Structural extremes in a Cretaceous dinosaur. PLoS One (11): published online.

Friday, November 16, 2007

LOLCreashun Contest

It's the funniest thing since...well, the Creation Museum.

Link here for details about the contest and here for the entries. The deadline is Sunday (noon or midnight?), so hurry up!

Here's my favorite so far:


Created by GilliganLQ

Geology Research and $...

Last night I attended a "meeting" of sorts, held by the geology department at my university. It was advertised as an "informal gathering" and did not disappoint. There were about 6 geology majors (undergraduate seniors?) and four geology department faculty in attendance. The four faculty members gave short PowerPoint presentations on their research in hopes of piquing the interest of the students in attendance.

I had a hard time. First, I was the only student there who had never taken a geology course. I was also the only person there who didn't know anyone else. Even the son of one of the professors, probably ten years old, knew more people than I did. He also knew more about geology than I did. I felt pretty out-of-place, though I'm sure it was mostly due to my social anxiety, as people were more than willing to chat with me.

The research presentations were fascinating. I've visited the web pages of the department faculty before, but never really understood exactly what the research was about.

There were several projects between the four faculty and I wish I could remember more, but here's a short run-down:
  • Limnogeology: Lake Mud! One professor is gathering samplesof the sediment at the bottoms of various lakes. Each sample is being tested for many different variables, such as carbon and nitrogen content and C/N ratios to see how the lakes have changed over the last couple hundred years. The research will help determine what needs/doesn't need to be done about things such as algae blooms and pollution.
  • Microbial Geochemistry: Another professor is currently working on many projects involving microbes and how they interact with their environments, mainly how they aid the cycle of certain compounds in the environment. He studies the presence of sulfur in Yellowstone National Park and in the "caves of Frassassi" in Italy.
  • Geomorphology: Another professor is studying the Appalachian Mountains where juvenile materials have been found. He is also studying an accretion in northern Nevada, deposited on top of an Au-rich site.
  • Paleontology/Paleoenvironments: Another professor is studying the an ancient reef. Her research aims at studying three distinct reef growths and the faunal succession of the reefs.

Each presenter had more than just the projects I describe here. You can see that there's a lot of really exciting research going on. And that's only half of the faculty. There are another three people giving presentations sometime in January.

It's all making me wish I were in school full time. I would love to work with the professor studying the ancient reef, but I just don't have the experience or the time. Soon, though.

In other news, I got my welcome letter from SVP! I'm in! I also put some money into my SVP annual meeting savings account. If I can keep putting in $150 every two weeks, I'll have my goal by the beginning of June, 2008!

Note: Though I didn't know anyone, one specific professor made a point to sit and talk with me for a while about his research and about my education. He was very very nice and I was completely grateful for his company. It made me feel very welcome.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rate My Professors: A Glimpse of the Wrath of Undergraduates

Today, I decided to check out the infamous "Rate My Professors" website (cue impending doom music). Wow! I mean, wow! It's hard to take the reviews seriously. Especially when there are one or two well-written positive reviews followed by a slew of poorly-written, angry, negative reviews (the ones where you can see the spittle and bloodshot eyes). And "hot or not?" C'mon! How old are we? Oh yeah, that's right...18.

I've decided to post some of my favorite snippets, taken from the ratings of my soon-to-be chemistry teacher and from my current chemistry teacher.
  • To have this class either maintain or improve your average, you're going to have to be either really smart, or have 12 credits and no extra curricular activities. Between class, labs, night tests, reviews, homework, WebCT, and studying, you have no life.

Isn't that what college is? Class, labs, tests, reviews, homework and studying? I work full-time and I still manage to do all of those things. But I've only got 7 credits. And I'm smart. And I have no life.*

  • Many good students dreams of going to an American Medical School have been washed down the drain thanks to this professor. His intent on all exams was to trick you. ANd most of all material covered on the final will be something you've never seen before. If you want to go to grad/med school AVOID hthis guy. There is another.

I'm pretty sure that if you can't pass Introductory Chemistry, no matter how evil the professor, you can't get into graduate or medical school. Just a guess.

  • Professor BlahBlah is a horrible teacher. He is too lazy to write on the board. He would rather give you a fill in the blank handout so all he has to do is write in the blanks on the overhead.

Professor BlahBlah has to teach 200 students a HUGE amount of information. He has thirty hours to teach thousands of pages of difficult material. If he wrote on the board, we'd cover 1/4 of the material we need. I think skeleton notes are forgivable.

  • Did not like this professor. Class average was a 59. He would not do any practice problems for us ahead of the test. If you enoy learning how to solve chemistry problems on your own, then take him.

There are supplemental instruction sessions three times a week. They consist entirely of practice problems. He also gives out the previous year's test and a review sheet, both with and without answers.

Yikes! I hope by the time I'm teaching (fingers crossed, fingers crossed, fingers crossed) they will have figured out a way to screen the raters. Or, that they'll have figured out a way to get accurate student evaluations.

*I actually do have a life...I just don't have time to relax. But I love my life. Really. It's amazingly full and interesting.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

School Day

Oh, I love school! I just had the greatest class...y'know, the kind where you sit and nod the whole time, formulate questions that go beyond the subject matter and feel completely on top of the subject?

I have been feeling so hopeless about my chemistry class. Not "bad grade" hopeless but "you don't understand this enough to apply it anywhere else" hopeless. But now, it's all starting to come together. Atomic structure? Easy! Effective nuclear charge? No sweat! I understand the stuff we're covering on a "common sense" level. It makes sense to me, on its own, without textbook consultation. I can see, in my head, why higher bond energies indicate shorter bond lengths. I can see that phosphorus trifluoride is a trigonal pyramidal molecule. It's very refreshing!

On another note, I signed up for classes today and I'm taking more chemistry and more calculus. I REALLY don't want to do this, but it makes the most sense for the following reasons:
  • I will have taken the classes in succession, lowering the likelihood that I will lose all the information I've gained this semester.
  • I won't have to buy any new textbooks.
  • I won't have to take any night courses, allowing me to do my homework after work, before 9:00 pm.

The only downside is that I will have finished a year of work towards my degree without having taken a single class in the major. *sigh*

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Boneyard, blogroll and other news...

The 9th edition of The Boneyard is up at Catalogue of Organisms. Go check it out for some delicious paleo fun! I'll be hosting the next edition in two weeks, so send your submissions as soon as you can to "a c northrop at gmail dot com." It's my first time and I'm a bit nervous, so help me out (or *insert bad pun*) and send me a paleo-related post that you'd like to have featured!

I've updated my blogroll to include some paleo/evolution blogs that I've been reading for weeks! Be sure to check the new additions!

What I've been doing, in brief:
  • finishing up the (so far) most stressful week of the school year
  • passing my 4th kyu Aikido test!
  • applying topical steroids to my persistent eczema a billion times a day(after forking over a hundred bucks for said topical steroids)
  • watching Dr. Who, Season 3 and feeling slightly embarrassed for the director
  • working on my Triceratops painting while J works on his Pteranodon Jesus painting (pictures to follow soon)
  • fending off a blossoming chest cold
  • trying to understand effective nuclear charge, electron affinity and electronegativity...with only slight progress
  • trying to do derivatives of trigonometric functions (decent progress)
  • wondering why my cat can't poop in the litter box, but instead, carries the poop around with her in her butt hair all day
  • wondering why my cat can't wash her own ass
  • wondering why cat shampoo smells worse than cat poop

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Meme of Four

Julia at The Ethical Palaeontologist has tagged me for a meme! YAY!

4 jobs I have had:
Landscaper/Greenhouse worker (did this for four years)
Legal Assistant for a deadbeat dad lawyer
Assistant Editor at a video production studio
Editorial Asistant for a scholarly/medical journal

4 movies I love to watch over and over:
Jurassic Park
Life of Brian
MST3K, The Movie
The Princess Bride

4 places I have lived:
Ashford, CT, USA
Mansfield, CT, USA
**Edited to maintain some semblance of anonimity**

TV shows I enjoy watching:
Dr. Who
House
Nip/Tuck
Black Books

4 places I have been:
Naples, Italy
London, England
Rome, Italy
New York, NY, USA


4 websites I visit daily:
Various paleo/academic blogs (I just start at the top of my blogroll and go down)

Statcounter
Facebook

Science Daily


4 favourite foods:
Cabot Cheddar Cheese
Peanut Butter (organic salted...no chunks)
Annie's Goddess Dressing (good on food...but just as good without)
Mr. Mike's buffalo chicken pizza

4 places I would rather be:
Somewhere out west, USA, where there are fossils fossils fossils
Somewhere in Canada where there are fossils fossils fossils
London, UK
Florence, Italy

4 blogs I tag:
Make No Bones
Fish Feet
Fumbling Towards Geekdom
Learning Curves

Thursday, November 8, 2007

R-E-G-I-S-T-R-A-T-I-O-N! What does that spell? Hell!

It's early November and that means it's also time to start registering for spring semester courses. In previous years, registration time was riddled with anxiety. Could I get into the courses I needed/wanted? Would I have to take early or late classes? Would I have to go to class every day?

Things have changed a bit, now that I'm a non-traditional student.

I work full time, so those early and late classes are turning out to be the only ones I can take. I'm a senior by status (though I'm in the first semester of my undergraduate degree), so I get to sign up first, eliminating the possibility that I won't get into the classes I want, especially since all the other registering seniors are most likely NOT taking intro classes.

But now there's a new kind of anxiety. Now, I have to find a way to schedule classes into a 7.5 hr. workday. This is proving difficult, as the only classes I can choose from at this point are lab classes which meet four days a week. So, if I want to take two classes, which I do, I need to take a good two-three hour chunk out of work during the day and make it up at night. They've been really flexible so far, but I don't know how that'll fly.

On top of that, I'm torn between three choices: calculus, chemistry and geology. I'm currently taking Introductory Chemistry (part 1) and Fundamentals of Calculus. I need to take Introductory Chemistry (part 2) and Calculus I. But I want to take Earth System Science...because I want to.

I'll have to wait until next spring semester to take Introductory Chemistry (part 2) if I don't take it this spring, which could be rough, since I'm finding the first part to be challenging. So I'm pretty sure I should just take it a.s.a.p. And that leaves Calculus and Geology. I want to take Geology, but fitting it into my schedule is going to be hard if I take Chemistry. Fitting Calculus in will be much easier and allow for a much nicer schedule.

So really, I should take Chemistry and Calculus again. But that's exactly what I'm taking now, and I would like to at least have taken a Geology course by the time the SVP meeting rolls around. Meh...I can always just brush up on Geology by taking a textbook out at the library and teaching myself. Plus, if I want to take Geology, then I can take it when J takes it, and we can study together. Which would be nice, since we have so little time together as it is.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I must be getting old...

Because GWAR was fun, but not as fun as I remember it being. I still got soaked in fluid. I still got to jump around and be crazy and totally out-of-control. But I also was pissed off. And claustrophobic. And in pain.

Last year, when GWAR came around, I managed to get a spot at the very front of the crowd. I was right in front of the stage and all of the pressure and pushing was at my back. Granted, I got mashed into a wooden barrier and had massive bruising on my hips, but I could only go in one direction: forward. Last night, I didn't make it to the front, and instead was caught in the middle of a really violent mosh pit. Not something I really enjoy. I got pushed around, knocked to the floor and nearly trampled. I got elbowed in the face and my ankles got kicked and stepped on. They're severely bruised and a bit swollen this morning.

And being in the middle was really physically demanding. I got pushed from all sides. The crowd was tightly packed enough so that at times, my feet weren't even on the ground, yet I was still moving. I couldn't breathe and my arms were so tired that I couldn't push back.

The music was good. I mean, it's not something I listen to regularly, but in the right time and place, I love some good thrash metal. And they performed one of my favorite songs, "Bring Back the Bomb." In all, GWAR is a parody of violence, racism and hate. But I don't think everyone gets it. I think some people in the crowd really did mean "hell yeah" when the lead singer shouted out, "Let's get fucked up on crack." J started to wonder why all of the "jokes" revolved around Jewish people.
At the end of the show, J and I met up with our friends Paul and Samara to takes some post-gore pictures. Our clothes were dyed pink and blue from the "blood" and "semen" and J had some of the dye behind his contacts, which made him look like a zombie on acid. It was pretty ridiculous.
But it was also pretty fun, barring the pain and aggravation.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Polar stuff...

There's been a lot of media attention surrounding polar dinosaurs lately. Nature News recently featured an article called "Paleontology: Tunnel vision" about Thomas Rich's attempt to tunnel into the Alaska permafrost to access polar dinosaur fossils. The article, written by Alison Abbot, focuses mostly on the trials and tribulations of the field crew and film crew and reads more like a docu-diary than anything else. If you check out the comments at the end of the article, you'll notice a letter to the author by Roland Gangloff, rebuking her for giving his research and publications such little attention.

In other news, tonight is the long-awaited GWAR concert. I'll try to post some pictures tomorrow, though I have to rush from my Calculus class to the concert venue, so I'm sure I'll forget the camera. That, and it's freakin' cold outside, and I don't know how I'll feel at 1 a.m. when I'm drenched in fake blood and other body fluids and have to shower and get up in 6 hours. Oh, poor me.

Monday, November 5, 2007

But I want it NOW!!! Part Deux

I spent the weekend doing absolutely nothing. Nada...zilch...got NOTHING done. I spent hours on my calc homework and got nowhere. I didn't even crack the chemistry book, which is a problem, since my test grades seem to be progressively getting worse (my most recent grade was a 123/140, which is a B+, which is a GOOD grade, but it feels like an F to me). And we all know the next step is dumpster diving and panhandling, right?

I wish I knew everything and I knew it all right this instant. Is that so much to ask? Would it be such an out-of-this-world request if I asked to be a leading scientist with only a degree in Professional Writing? I mean...who needs basic math, chemistry and geology skills? Who needs to know what questions to ask and how to go about answering them?

And that's the key, isn't it? To know enough about something to be able to ask good questions...questions that lead to answers that lead to more questions. And there're only so many questions you can ask if you don't know anything. So you learn. You learn all you can about something. And then when you have questions, you do all you can to answer them. And slowly, you know a lot about one thing and a little bit about the things related to that one thing.

I don't know anything. Not yet. And that's fine, because I'm in my first friggin' semester of my friggin' undergraduate degree. And I have something I didn't have the first time around: ambition. Hopefully, I'll find I have a good mind for science along the way.

P.S. I had a scientist moment this weekend when I found a dead bird and decided I MUST pick it up and examine its wing structure. I couldn't put it down. Its wings were SO light...and it reminded me of the latest SV-POW! post on pneumaticity...which is awesome.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

J: Humor and Math

Me: "Ugh! I hate calculus. It doesn't make any sense."

J: "Maybe it's because you're using letters instead of numbers."

Check out Procompunathus!

I know, I know...it's Procompsognathus. But that's only if you're talking about the dinosaur. And I'm not. I'm talking about my newest, most beloved toy:





Yup! I did it! I bought myself a laptop and now I can post on the weekends from my favorite coffee shop! I can store my very own pictures on my very own computer. I can download journal articles and store them on my desktop. I can look at non-P.C. websites without fear of repercussion! It's all very exciting to me.

And yes, I am a huge nerd for naming my computer "Procompunathus." But I'm not sorry...I will not apologize for my nerdiness. It's something I've come to love. I mean, I love it in everyone else, so why not embrace it?

The computer is a Sony VAIO CR220E/L. It's got 200GB of hard drive space (or so it was advertised...it's only showing 178GB on the computer), 2GB of memory, an Intel Core 2 Duo T7250 (200GHz) processor and a DVD/CD burner! Wooohoooo!

J and I bought our laptops last Tuesday. We had been shopping around for a few months and decided on a Toshiba with all the same features, except with an AMD processor. Then, when we went to buy it, the sale was gone. So we ended up with these Sony VAIOs, and though we spent a bit more than we wanted to, we're happy...or at least I am...I'll speak for myself.

I keep having consumer guilt...but I'm not going to let it consume me (HA! Horrible pun, eh?). I'm a student. I have papers to write, research to do and blogs to read...and I can't always be running to my office on the weekends. In the end, if this puppy lasts for a good 4 years, I'll be spending about $300/year to use it, which is $25/month. That's not so bad.

Right?

Right.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

International Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting Savings Year

Most of us involved in one way or another in academia are probably not strangers to financial hardship. As a part-time student with a full-time job, I'm probably better off than most students, and I'm still below "livable wage," especially in my corner of the country. While travel grants are often available, funding a weekend trip to a society meeting can still break the bank.

I may be jumping the gun a bit, seeing as I haven't yet become a formal member of SVP, but I am 99.9% sure I want to go to next year's annual SVP meeting in Cleveland, OH. And I'm also sure that if I don't start saving for it now, I won't be able to afford it, come October.

So, for all of you poor paleo people (ppp) who are in the same boat, I propose we do an offshoot of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo) and set up a savings plan. The idea is to make a commitment to yourself and a few other people to save a certain amount of money, per week, to put towards travel costs. You can set a goal and monitor it on your site, much like NaNoWrMo folks, all the while inspiring other ppp to do the same.

There's a word cash counter here, to let others monitor your progress.

My goal is $2200 (for two people), so I'm hoping to save about $275 every month until the end of July.

Let me know if you're interested in the comments section of this post!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Great Chemistry Experiment

Well, as I suspected, I did well on that one pre-lab that I didn't try to do well on. My frustration level was so high during my last lab that I finally just asked the TA what I could do to get better grades on my pre-labs, since I couldn't figure it out from the grades alone. His response was pretty much inaudible, except for "too detailed information." Anyway, here's the official publication of my findings:

The Great Chemistry Experiment

Amanda A. Student, B.S.*
*University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont
PURPOSE. Test the accuracy of the hypothesis that the pre-lab grades given by the TA are inversely proportional to the amount of work/preparation done.

PROCEDURE. Handed in several pre-labs done in the style required by the syllabus (type 1), which stated "a pre-lab consists of the title, date, purpose, brief procedure and data charts for the experiment." Handed in one pre-lab grade, not done in the style required by the syllabus and done with minimal effort and preparation (type 2). Compared grades from each type of pre-lab.

RESULTS AND OBSERVATIONS. Type 1 pre-labs came back with an average grade of 1.25/3. The Type 2 pre-lab came back with a grade of 3/3.



DISCUSSION. Type 1 pre-labs were done over the course of an hour (per pre-lab). A careful reading of the lab manual was done prior to the pre-lab writing process. Each Type 1 pre-lab was between 1/2 and 3/4 pages long and included a title, date, purpose, brief procedure and any necessary data chart. The Type 2 pre-lab was done in a five-minute window before the lab class. Minimal reading of the lab manual was done prior to the pre-lab writing process. The Type 2 pre-lab was less than 1/2 page long.

CONCLUSION. The results support the hypothesis that pre-lab grades are inversely proportional to the amount of work/preparation done.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Networking and Bacteria Sweater

Everyone is back from the SVP annual meeting and there's so many blog posts in the works! I've been reading as much as possible about the meeting and looking at photos, many of which picture people whose names I know and whose faces I'm not familiar with. It's fascinating, this little community of paleontologists. They're brilliant and funny and completely nerdy! I feel right at home. It's exactly the field I want to study, with exactly the right kind of people. And I'm starting to feel like it's within my reach...which is nice, since I'm still so fresh and it all seems so far away.

I've been thinking a lot about networking and how important it is. I actually started networking around age 12, when I decided that being a paleontologist way outweighed my other dream of being a movie star. It wasn't too long after Jurassic Park had come out (mind you, the dream of studying paleontology was around long before!!!) and I was getting regular issues of the "Dino Times." In one particular issue there was an interview with Peter Dodson. The article mentioned that Dr. Dodson worked at the University of Pennsylvania and I got on my detective hat and found his address. Over the course of three months or so, I regularly sent Dr. Dodson my drawings and he regularly sent me drawings as well, along with some advice on pursuing a career in paleontology.

Now, thirteen years later, I am still networking. I started off by joining the DML, though I've been mostly a lurker, since I don't have enough of an education to really contribute to the discussion. I've met paleo-bloggers of all ages and education levels, from all over the world. I've applied for membership to SVP, befriended paleontologists on Facebook andMyspace and started this here blog.

My hope is that next year, when I can afford to attend the annual SVP meeting, I'll go there and feel right at home. That way, my anxiety won't get in the way of my experience and I'll go home even more excited than ever.

Also, my new favorite keyword search that brings people to my blog: bacteria sweater.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It must be Catday

Last night I had a dream in which I went to my old house in Connecticut to spend the night. The house is, in reality, currently for sale. It was for sale in my dream as well and I had to sneak into it. I had J with me and it turned out that we weren't alone; there was a police officer staying there with a girl I didn't know. The police officer started to give me crap about breaking in and threatened to hurt me if I didn't leave, but somehow I convinced him that it was no more wrong for me to be there than it was for him and his girlfriend. When he finally let me walk around the house, I noticed that my cat Freya was there (Freya died three years ago when a pitbull tried to eat her). I immediately got upset upon seeing her because it meant she had been there alone, for a long time. And I got even more upset that I have three cats living in my apartment and wouldn't be able to take her home with me. But J whispered "It's okay, we can take Freya, too."

So I woke up...and I tried to tell J about the dream before I forgot. And of course, I was falling asleep in between my words. And I ended with "I miss my cat." And J said that the way I said it made him want to cry.

The dream made me feel especially warm toward the cats I own now and I had a hard time leaving the house because I just wanted to pet them and spend time with them.

Anyway, I got to work and started with my daily blog fix and Brian at Laelaps had a fantastic video about cats posted. I decided that today is just a day for cats...Catday if you will. So I'm gonna share some pictures of my little fuzzball friends, because I love them so so much.

Miss Emily (a.k.a. Smemilypoo or Smem)

Echo (a.k.a. Stinkyhead or Boo-bear)