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)

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm starving...

Every morning I make a long journey from my car to my office. I'm sure anyone working at a university understands. There is no way that the parking office could put me in the parking lot right next to my office. Instead, I have to park in the gymnasium parking lot...a full fifteen minutes (walking time) from my office.

I'm not sure what that has to do with anything, since I didn't intend on posting about my transportation issues...

What I really want to gripe about is my chemistry lab. I promised the conclusion of an experiment last week, but my TA didn't manage to grade our pre-lab reports, so I have to wait until Thursday for that one.

But I did learn something interesting during my last lab class...and it had nothing to do with heats of reaction or calorimeters.

Remember when I was fretting about my pre-lab grades? (If not, then catch up here) Well, in lab last Thursday, before class, I asked a few classmates how their pre-grades were. I turned out that everyone I asked had had very similar problems...big X's through their procedures sections with no explanation and poor grades, also without explanation. The most explanation I have gotten about the big X through my procedure section was this: "too detailed information." Well, we decided to collectively ask about the procedures section. And y'know what?!? The TA said, "you're not supposed to do one." WHAT??? Are you kidding?

Let me explain why this is such a huge problem for me...

1. The syllabus says this: "A pre-lab consists of the title, date, purpose, brief procedure and data charts for the experiment," so I assumed that a procedure was necessary. Essentially, I'm getting penalized for doing something that was asked of me in the syllabus.

2. The TA failed to mention, after at least half of the class added a procedures section to their pre-labs for FOUR WEEKS, that a procedures section was not supposed to be on the pre-lab and then continued taking points off for it.

3. The TA wasn't planning on mentioning that a procedures section was not supposed to be on the pre-lab and only did so after we asked him about it.

I'm pretty annoyed. I've put a lot of time into my chemistry class and it's paying off, except for in the lab. I'm not telepathic...I can't read my TA's mind. I only have the syllabus to go by and according to the syllabus, I'm doing exactly what's been asked of me. If there's a change in the expectations, then fine...who am I to say how the class should run and how grades should be calculated. But tell me about it!!! Don' t write "too detailed information" when you really mean "take this whole thing out."

I'm afraid that approaching the TA will give me the same response he's given most other people: "that's just how I grade." I'd probably just end up crying or something.

Friday, October 19, 2007

PZ's Mutating Genre Meme

I have been tagged for my second meme by Brian over at Laelaps! I love it! This one was a little more complicated than the first. Here're the rules:

There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...". Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

* You can leave them exactly as is.
* You can delete any one question.
* You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change "The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is..." to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is...", or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is...", or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is...".
* You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...".
* You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions.

Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

My ancestry:
My great-great-great-great-grandparent is Pharyngula.
My great-great-great-grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My great-great-grandparent is Flying Trilobite
My great-grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock
My grandparent is The Anterior Commissure
My parent is Laelaps

And without further ado:

The best scary movie in sociopolitical dystopias is: 28 Days Later (I still haven't seen Children of Men...)

The best sexy song in ambient music is: "Let Go" by Frou Frou

The best scary story in horror novellas is: "The Langoliers" by Stephen King

The best B-movie in 1980's horror films is: The Evil Dead

The best television series in mockumentary comedy is: Arrested Development

The following can considered themselves tagged:
Apparent Dip
Matt at Ask Dr. Vector
Zach at When Pigs Fly Returns
Julia at The Ethical Palaontologist
Darren at Tetrapod Zoology
Neil at Microecos

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More school questions...

The other night I went to a fascinating lecture by Dianne Newman, PhD of MIT. The lecture was called "Bacteria are Beautiful" and it was a general overview of bacteria that didn't get too technical, but contained enough sciency stuff to satisfy the academics. One of the things Dr. Newman mentioned was magnetotactic bacteria. She showed us a video which took us on a "tour" of a Magnetospirillum cell, both in cross-sections and then inside the cell, where we could see the magnetosomes connected to the inner cell membrane. I'm pretty sure I sat there with my jaw on the floor...

I also got to attend an informal luncheon with Dr. Newman and about 15 female science students. We talked about what it's like to be a woman in a science field, how Dr. Newman made her first big discovery and how her career progressed. One of the questions I asked was "did the work that graduate students and PhD students were doing seem out-of-reach and more complicated than you could handle as an undergraduate?" The question sparked a good deal of conversation and I got a lot of good feedback from many of the other students, who, though younger than I am, had finished more of their undergraduate studies.

Another thing we talked about was financial aid for graduate school. I was under the impression that graduate school worked a lot like undergrad school as far as finances were concerned. Instead, I was told that science graduate students don't pay for their graduate degrees... they are funded by the professor/advisor they are working under. Is this true? Is it possible that I could end my educational career with undergraduate debt and a minimal amount of debt from graduate school? It seems too good to be true.

Serious Questions I Would Like to Have Answered:

1. How does the graduate school financing thing work?
2. How does the PhD financing thing work?
3. Did it seem nearly impossible, as an undergraduate, to ever achieve the things that graduate students and PhD students were achieving?

Not-So-Serious Questions I Would Like to Have Answered:

1. How did the woman who used the toilet before me manage to get 5 pubic hairs on the toilet seat?


Why are women's sweaters really tight, really thin and really short? I don't understand this. Men get sweaters with some bulk...they're thick and warm and cover all of the important body parts. Women get loosely-knit sweaters that barely touch the waist of their pants.

I bought a sweater yesterday and when I got home, I put it on and flapped my arms up and down. No, I wasn't trying to fly...I was doing the wind test, which I highly recommend for any winter clothing. The sweater I had just bought didn't pass. Not at all. Not one fricken' bit. When I flapped my arms, I could feel cold air. Because the sweater was as thin as a tee shirt.

J bought a sweater, made by the same company, for only $10 more. It's so warm! And it passes the wind test. But, according to him, it's "mannish," and I wonder about how important that is. When I'm walking to my car across campus at 10:00pm on a February night, am I going to care that I look sleek and feminine in my tiny worthless sweater? teeth will be chattering and I'll be wondering why I didn't wear the bulky man sweater.

I'd like to start a clothing line based on the following:

1. Not all women are impractical.
2. Not all women like pastel colors and flowers/snowflakes/bunnies.
3. Not all women are under 5'6" tall.
4. Not all women have no use for pockets.
5. Not all women are over age 50 or under age 16.
6. Not all women want their pants to barely cover their crotches.

Any others I've missed?

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a geologist...

Are all geologists alcoholics? I set out to answer this question after a few web searches on the subject of geology seemed to have a very common thread. What I found was a bit frightening…and a lot funny.

My favorite online source is Wikipedia…if I’m looking for easy, potentially inaccurate information. And I was looking for just that today when I found “Geologist” in the Wikipedia Uncyclopedia. The article starts off with the following: “Geologists are 'scientists' with an unnatural obsession with rocks and alcohol. There is a considerable, and still growing body of scientific literature that suggests that geologists are in fact the world's first alcohol-based life form.”

The only geology enthusiasts I know are myself and Annoying Geology Guy from my calc class. I certainly know I’m an alcoholic (of the recovering sort) and AGG probably qualifies as one, since he can’t seem to make it through a class without a fix, but that doesn’t mean ALL geology people are louses, right? Further research was necessary.

Majors; A Guide, featured on, by Garrett Mccord, says about geologists that “These people worship the following characters: Indiana Jones, the main paleontologist guy in Jurassic Park, the geologist chick from Tremors, and Lara Croft.” At the end he adds, “Oh yeah, and they're all raging drunks and potheads.” My interest in Indiana Jones, Dr. Alan Grant and Tremors support Mccord’s statement, but I don’t know much about Lara Croft, so I’ve rejected his idea and moved on in hopes of finding more information.

In an attempt to find more prestigious sources, I came across an article in the New York Times. The article, titled With Great Beer, It's All in the Rocks (and That Doesn't Mean Ice), written by Kenneth Chang, discusses how different minerals and chemicals in the Earth contribute to the beer-making process. Change writes, “Beer and geology, on the other hand, are closely entwined, Dr. Maltman said last month at a seminar on geology and beer held at a meeting of the Geological Society of America. For one, geologists drink lots of beer, typically ending a long day examining rocks with a trip to the nearest bar.” So, not only are geologists alcohol-based life forms, but they also spend their time at “geology and beer” seminars. Sounds slightly suspicious to me.

It turns out that geology isn’t just related to beer…it’s related to scotch, too. In Consumed-Let's Rock, Marty Jones reveals the discovery and marketability of the process of cooling scotch with granite. Howard Lahti, a geologist, discovered that granite perfectly cooled his scotch without diluting it. He packaged pieces of granite and sold them online.

In the end, I’m fairly convinced that the saying “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a geologist” is fitting. It seems that geology does have close ties with alcohol…if not alcoholism. I’m wondering if it’s a requirement that geologists drink alcohol and if I should just quit while I’m ahead.


Jones, Marty. Let's Rock . Consumed.

Mccord, Garrett. Majors, a Guide.

Chang, Kenneth. With Great Beer, It's All in the Rocks (and That Doesn't Mean Ice). The New York Times.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A post for Zach...

Zach from When Pigs Fly Returns left a comment on my blog a while ago and we got to talking about the Jurassic Park action figures. In the spirit of our conversation, I wanted to post a few pictures of those figures. Unfortunately, I only took one picture of the action figures and then took a zillion pictures of my apartment (mainly the dinosaur living room) and a few of J. Still, I wanted to share them all... So, without further ado, a montage of images from my life, as of this morning and a picture of my old Jurassic Park toys:

First: This is our bookshelf. Notice the PostSecret books, which I am completely addicted to. Displayed are my old JP toys. There's a juvenile T rex, a couple of Dilophosuarus, "Velociraptor," Procompsognathus, Stegosaurus, and a Pachycehpalasaurus. I was about 11 when Jurassic Park came out (the movie) and I was so in love with it.

Second: This is the dinosaur living room. It's where we hide all of my nerdy dinosaur paraphernalia. Notice my cat, Emily. She can't NOT be in a picture, especially in the morning when she hasn't been fed. We have a huge "dinosaur" panorama poster on the wall (we like picking out the non-dinosaurs). You can see the bookshelf and my dinosaur coasters (in the window). The bottom picture is a close-up of them. My friends Christy and Alex made them for me for my birthday. I talk about them in my birthday post. They're beautiful!

Third: This is the cast that J and I made at Dinosaur State Park on Labor Day. It's from a trackway made by a Dilophosaurus-like dinosaur called Eubrontes. We still have to put some polyurethane on it and paint it.

J hesitantly agreed to let me take a picture of him even though he had woken up only seconds before. In the second picture, Emily is trying frantically to get off of J's shoulder, while it takes me a million hours to snap the picture. She scratched him pretty good. J's got some really nice tattoos (the mirrors on his forearms and Celtic knot on his wrist). My favorites are his ammonites (which he says are just shells, but I call them ammonites anyway) and his birds. The birds are on his chest and they point down and in towards his sternum. I've thought it might be a good idea to get two Quetecoatulus northropi on my chest...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Enough fussing...

I'm done fussing with my blog. It's still the same, only it's got a new domain. That's right...I now own!

I've made some updates to my may have noticed the labels disappeared for a while. Well, they're back. I've also added more blogs to my "blogroll" and changed my profile picture. The picture is of me at about age 5, sleeping with a giant inflatable Tyrannosaurus rex in my bed. My father came to visit me a few months ago and he brought the picture with him. Here's a close-up:

Notice the glass of milk on the nightstand...and my awesome haircut. test down and two to go. I got my grade for the latest chemistry exam and I got a 128/140 (91%). Not bad, considering the class average was 64%. I also got some new grades back from my chem lab TA. I got another crappy grade on my prelab, so the saga continues. This time it was a 1/3 with no explanation and a huge "X" through the procedures section. I feel that I am able to make a relatively accurate observation:

my prelab grade = 1/my effort and preparation

I'm conducting an experiment, which I will blog about later when the results are in. The gist is this: I get bad grades when I try, so I just handed in a prelab on which I did almost NO work. If I get a 3/3 on that one...

In other news, I now have a list of keywords that bring people to my blog! Turns out that the majority of people (okay...only 3, but that is the majority) are finding my blog by searching for "chemistry lab hate." Other searches include the following:
  • lets get the tardis
  • pictures of baby giant african millipedes
  • meme animals
  • dimetrodon
  • list of all sauropods
  • paluxysaurus

I'm excited that at least a few of these have to do with dinosaurs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The stoners win again...

I have a test-tacular* month approaching. It starts tonight with my second chem exam, resumes next week with my first calculus exam and ends in November with my 4th kyu Aikido test. I was most nervous about my calc exam because it constitutes 1/3 of my grade, but then I received an email from my professor that contained this:

"I was frightened by how the "in-class group quiz" went last night. I want to encourage you all to devote a significant amount of time to preparing for this exam. If you have only been doing the "hand-in" assignments and not doing the homework problems assigned from each section this is NOT enough. I highly recommend that you take the time to go back and do these problems. They are listed on the course website."

UGH! The in-class group quiz wasn't a quiz. Basically, Professor Calc handed out last year's test and asked us to do five of the problems before leaving class. She wrote the answers to the problems on the board, so we just had to show all our work to get credit. The five problems would constitute a quiz grade.

Before the class took the in-class group "quiz," we took a 15-minute break. It was obvious that, during the break, Annoying Geology Guy, I Don't Get It Dude and I Hate School Dude got stoned. How do I know? Maybe it was the skunky marijuana smell that filled the room after they came back in. Or, perhaps it was their dilated, bloodshot, glazed-over eyes. They were the people that had a hard time with the quiz...and let everyone know with their loud sighs of frustration. It's no wonder the quiz was difficult for them...

In the end of her email, Professor Calc let us know that we could use a 3X5 note card for the exam, which she was completely opposed to before the in-class quiz catastrophe. I wish that she would let each and every one of those guys just fail. After all, it's their lack of effort, not her teaching, that's screwed them.

*Yes, I am aware that this sounds like "testicular."

I'm so jealous...

Turns out there's a TARDIS in town and J got to it first! In case you don't know what a TARDIS is, I've included this very handy link. I admit that J's TARDIS doesn't look much like Dr. Who's TARDIS, but the chance of finding anything that remotely resembles the real TARDIS here in the states is unlikely. Nice hunting, J!

Does anyone else watch the new Dr. Who series? Or are J and I the only nerd-heads? We've even come up with a little code phrase for watching the show: Let's Who it.

But Blogger is so easy!!!

I'm sorry about the lack of posting/good posts...I have been trying to figure out how to move to my own domain and it's taken all of my free time.

I bought the domain "" through Google and it's now registered with GoDaddy. I bought a hosting service through GoDaddy as well. I can't really figure out how to point my domain to my GoDaddy account and I can't call customer support while I'm at work because, well...I'm at work. If I had a computer at home, then this wouldn't be a problem...but I don't.'s possible that my domain is pointed to my host...and that I just don't know how to make my stuff show up on the website. I uploaded the site map for this blog with the ftp thingy, renamed it as index.html...but I think something's missing...I'm swamped...overwhelmed...and I have PMS, so you can add angry to that list.

I love Blogger. It's so easy. It makes so much sense to me. How would I even write new posts at my new domain? Would I have to upload them and link them? Do I even have the software to make a web page without having to do it in html code (which I can't do). How do I use blogger templates for my website?


I'm might just call this all a big waste of money and forget about it. But first, I'll call tech support.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Damn you, Tiburones!

I have a problem with StatCounter, my new love.

Over the weekend, my blog got 15x more hits than usual. All the hits appear to be coming from a google image search (from non-U.S. countries). The image search included "Great White Shark, South Africa," so I figured that people were linking to my blog via an image on my first post. In a sudden bout of panic, I deleted the post that contained the picture, thinking someone might sue me. It didn't change the number of hits...and I think this is because there's still a page in Blogger called ""

I don't want a few hundred people visiting my site because they want to stare at a shark! I want to know who's visiting and I can't sort through hundreds of stats. I can't figure out how to fix this...I mean, it's not bad that people are visiting, but the only thing they see is a blank page that says "no posts match your query." That won't exactly turn people on to my blog. I think this is a permanent problem...HELP!!!

These were the referring links and the number of hits from each link:







The new good news: I'm faxing my application for SVP today!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Why I don't post on the weekends...

I don't have the Internet at home. Once I get a computer with a net connection, you .00022 million readers can enjoy a nice Saturday post.

Busy busy! This week I learned that I have an Aikido test in mid-November. I'll be testing for 4th kyu, which sounds like a big deal to non-aikidokai, but the ranks go from 5 to 1, so it's not as impressive as it sounds. Still, it means another advancement of sorts...which feels nice. I started training yesterday and things feel good...right where they should be. I'm a little worried because I have a lot of stuff to do and not much time, but I know I'm ready...

For those of you who have never seen Aikido before, you should watch this video. There's a lot of weapons work, and the whole thing is very beautiful. Enjoy.

Also, GWAR is coming to town again! I did a post about my first GWAR experience a while ago on my Myspace blog. Here's a snippet:

Saturday I went to see GWAR. Never having seen them before, I had NO sense of the extent of what I was getting myself into. The show was sold out and the venue post at the guardrail was painful...the crowd rushed the stage for two hours straight and I had the weight of the whole crowd grinding my hips and ribs into a wooden barrier. My neck is still sore...I have bruises on both hips, both ears are still ringing...I'm still finding red dye in strange orifices...IT WAS AWESOME!!! Since I could go on for hours about what GWAR is, I'll let Wikipedia summarize for me: "GWAR is a thrash metal, hardcore punk and shock rock band formed in 1985. The band is best known for their elaborate sci-fi/horror film inspired costumes; raunchy, obscene, politically incorrect lyrics; and graphic stage performances, which consist of humorous re-enactments of scatology, sadomasochism, necrophilia, pedophilia, bestiality, fire dancing, pagan rituals, executions, and other controversial violent and political themes."

I'm going to get my tickets after I post this...and I'll be sure to tell you all about it!

Friday, October 5, 2007

I'm a bit late on this one, but...

The Great Mofo Delurk 2007

I hate to be one of those students, but...

Chemistry lab is turning out to be a real disappointment. From annoying lab partners to obnoxious classmates...and now the TA.

I don't want to be one of those "my teacher sucks because I'm not doing well" students, but I have that attitude at this point.

For the lab section of my Chemistry course I have to hand in a pre-lab and lab report for every experiment. The pre-lab is a statement of purpose and a brief version of the procedures. We hand the pre-labs in before each lab. The purpose of them, as stated in the syllabus, is to show evidence of preparation for the lab. I have been writing the pre-labs with the utmost care; making the purpose statement as concise and accurate a possible and writing the procedures out with less detail than the lab manual, but enough detail so that I could do the lab correctly. Yesterday, I got back the first two labs that we did and while I got the full 8 points for each lab report, I got only 1 out of 3 points for each pre-lab. The only explanation of the grade slash was this: "Too detailed information."

Okay. So there's too much in the procedure section. I get it. I need to do less. That's fine. My problem is that I've now handed in three labs without knowing that I'm putting in too much detail. Perhaps if my first lab had been returned, oh, earlier than a month after I handed it in, I might have been able to address the problem. But now I have three crappy pre-lab grades. The lab doesn't count for more than 1/5 of my grade, but it's still going to bring down my overall grade (which up until now was 100%). I understand that my TA is busy. He's a PhD student and he's got his own stuff goin' on. But crap...a month later???

It also sorta irks me that the kids who do their pre-labs in the five minutes before lab starts get better grades. It's pretty obvious that the grades don't actually reflect preparedness...
Also, the girl who asks me ninety questions during the lab needs to crack the spine on her lab manual. I'm not her freakin' tutor.

In the spirit of recent sauropod posts, I thought I would include some pictures I took at the Miami Science Museum's "Dinosaurs of China" exhibit. The first is Lufengosaurus and the second is Shunosaurus. More pictures can be found here.

And the moment you've all been waiting favorite new bookend:

Thanks for, off to the doctor...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

I Freakin' Love Sauropods!

I got to work this morning, checked my email and, as always, eagerly opened up StatCounter to see just how many millions have read my blog. Yesterday was a record-breaker with a total of .000022 million visits! Pitiful as that is, I'm pretty excited. That's almost twice as much as the day before.

After opening my email and checking StatCounter, I went through my list of favorite blogs and visited each one in order. At this point, I have to say that there's a really amazing community of paleobloggers out there. I look forward to reading their blogs every morning...I always learn something new and their enthusiasm keeps me excited.

Anyway, I arrived at Darren's Tetrapod Zoology blog and a sauropod image caught my eye. I freakin' love sauropods. I love their long necks...their complicated phylogeny. I love their names, the arguments over their posture, their size. Why did anything on Earth ever get so big? They're beautiful and they're relatively understudied. And there are so many unanswered questions.

When I first decided to go back to school, I knew it would be years before I got to do any new dino research, but I wanted to get involved in one way or another, even if it meant nothing to anyone else. I started compiling a list of all known Sauropodomorphs on an Excel spreadsheet. I did my best to categorize them by their phylogeny, estimated length, locality (formation in one column, country in another), and age (period in one column, epoch in another). Nomen Nudum were highlighted in blue. Nomen Dubium were highlighted in pink. I used the DML as a reference at first, and then turned to Wilson and Sereno (1998), Wilson (2002) and Upchurch et al. (2004). Using Excel, I could organize the spreadsheet by category. I could view all of the sauropods found in Argentina, all of the sauropods from the Kimmeridgian, all of the Titanosaurs. Unfortunately, my list was so big that breaking the sauropods into categories didn't help me to understand them more...there was just too much information. And I kept having to add sauropods every day, given the serious increase in sauropod discoveries!

What I did learn is that sauropod phylogeny is all over the place. I kept finding new clade names and dinos that didn't seem to fit anywhere. I am just as confused about the whole thing today than I was when I started. I'm going to have to study phylogenetics and anatomy before I really get the whole sauropod classification thing down...

Since I've strayed so far from my original point, with no hope of finding a clever way to make the transition, I'll just say it: SV-POW! Matt at Ask Dr. Vector, Darren at Tetrapod Zoology and Mike Taylor have teamed up to bring us all the Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week blog! It's new, it's completely nerdy and it's all about sauropods vertebrae! I suggest you go behold the wonder and beauty of it all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hello New Sauropod, Goodbye State Dinosaur

Peter Rose examined "Pleurocoelus" fossils from Jones Ranch and found that they actually belong to a new basal titanosaurifom of the lower Cretaceous, differing from previously described Pleurocoelus "in the shape of the caudoventral margin of the maxilla, the shape of the distal scapular blade, and the shape of the proximal condyle of the tibia"(Rose 2007). Rose named the new sauropod Paluxysaurus Jonesi.

The paper is available at Palaeontologia Electronica at the following url:


Rose, PJ. 2007. A New Titanosauriform Saruopod (Dinosauria: Saurischia) From The Early Cretaceous Of Central Texas and its Phylogenetic Relationships. Paleontologia Electronica, 10: 8A

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Doubting stuff...

I am a huge fan of the Rate Your Students blog. While my favorite parts are the rants about problem-students, I pay close attention to the posts about working in academia because one day, I hope to be doing just that. At least I think I see, I'm terrified of working in a place where my job security relies on student evaluations, where I have to walk on eggshells for several years until I get seemingly out-of-reach tenure, where I must "publish or perish."

I work in an editorial office. Not the kind that puts out newspapers or brochures or magazines. I work in a scholarly/medical journal editorial office. On a daily basis, I send out letters that accept or reject the hard work of doctors and professors. I see that a small percentage of manuscripts get accepted. I deal with people whose jobs may depend on our office's decisions...and it scares the crap out of me.

My confidence is shaky. I look at the things that people much they know...and it seems so superhuman and out of my reach. My M.S. looks far far away, let alone a PhD.

Despite all this, I'm armed with the awareness that I lack confidence; I know that I'm bright and capable and that I'm the biggest obstacle. And that's how all this "I'm going back to school" stuff came about. Because I really don't feel like I can spend the rest of my life reading people's reasearch and wishing I could be doing it instead.

I'm hoping that my confidence will grow as I take classes more related to paleontology and spend some time doing assistant research with professors. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it's okay that I don't know a lot right now...I'm doing everything I can to educate myself. I'm going to continue learning as long as I want to. In the end, I'll only fail if I let myself fail (okay...I'm pretending money isn't an issue).

Monday, October 1, 2007

Interesting Animals Meme

Julia over at The Ethical Palaeontologist has tagged me for my very first meme! Woooohooooo!

An interesting animal I had
I've got two...the first being my cat, Emily. Emily is the sweetest, ugliest, most annoying cat I've ever lived with. She may also be the dumbest animal on the planet, according to J. I actually agree, but since she's my baby, I have to pretend that I think she's smart. I love her so so so so much. She's the underdog...the smelly-breath fish face...the genital-crusher. Emily's favorite hobbies are standing on sensitive body parts (especially naked ones), eating cheesy foods, ripping out her housemate Zeus's hair and cultivating bad breath. She's my smemilypoo and she's so perfect, in all her imperfect glory:

The other interesting animal I had was Harold...he was a giant African millipede and he was pretty damn interesting:

An interesting animal I ate
When I was in the 4th grade I went through a phase similar to one that toddlers go through; I ate anything I fancied. During that phase, I ate red ants (I also ate money). They were very sweet, though they had to be chewed immediately or they bit. I've eaten chicken hearts, which look like little people-hearts, complete with valves. I've also had alligator, venison and buffalo... I tend to stick with grains and veggies these days.

An interesting animal in a museum
Confusciusornis...she's the photo up at the top of my blog, but here's a more complete photo:

Saw this bugger at the Miami Science Museum...she was on display to the public for the very first time. There wasn't a lot of information available, but I think she was the oldest beaked bird found at that point, unless her cousin was older (one is dui and the other sanctus). The exhibit was really great...a lot of complete skeletons from China's Liaoning Province. I even saw a video featuring Peter Dodson, who I wrote to frequently as a kid. It was all very exciting.

An interesting thing I did with or to an animal
I had this really violent friend when I was eight or day he picked up a frog and squeezed it's innards out, so that they were hanging from its mouth. The frog was still hopping all over the place. It was absolutely horrifying and I have never gotten that image out of my head. And for the record, I didn't do it...I just witnessed it.

An interesting animal in its natural habitat
Proteus anguinus...the blind cave salamander, which has completely lost it's sense of sight and skin pigmentation. The salamander has adapted to living in complete darkness... beautiful example of evolution! Plus, it looks like it's got trees growing from its head. And that's cool.

And now to tag some people....hmmm....
Rebecca at Dinochick
Michael at Paleoblog
"Thermochronic" at Apparent Dip
"Rapunzel of the Ivory Tower" at Make No Bones and
Margaret at Tirade Parade

Cool! Thanks Julia!