Saturday, May 31, 2008

Somewhere, over the rainbow...

I was sitting at my desk at work the other day and I happened to look out the window and see this:

It was the most vivid rainbow I've ever seen. It was so bright, it seemed flourescent. I grabbed my camera and stood out on the stoop of my office building taking pictures of the sky. It was really amazing and I wish that my camera could do it justice.

Also, J bought me this yesterday, at a yard sale:

Emily LOVES it. She likes to eat the little tassels and rough it up. I think the people J bought it from must have owned a cat. I love it, too. It reminds me of the bed sheets I had as a kid with all the old-school style dinosaurs in primary colors.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I take it back...

I can share those photos with you...the agency gave me the go-ahead. So, here they are:

They took, like, 5,000 more than this, but I only got these two. More to come, I'm sure, when they start promoting their winter line...

Housekeeping (because it's fun to do when it's not in the house)...

I envisioned that my summer would be full of reading and writing and blogging about really interesting things, such as paleontology, geology and such. But, it turns out that I've been just as busy as ever. So, a few things to keep you up to speed:

-My cat, Echo, had a weird episode the other day where her back legs just sorta gave out on her. She seemed really out of it and J said she "looked like animals do in the movies when the get shot with a tranquilizer dart." I brought her to the vet and they said there's nothing wrong. So, we're watching just to make sure.

-There's a new blog out there by Darren Naish and Mark Witton, Azhdarchid Paleobiology, and it's all about pterosaurs. Mark's illustrations grace the posts. Be sure to check it out. I've included a link under the "Paleo/Sciency Blogs" category. Also, be sure to read Mark and Darren's new paper!

-I've had three appointments with the dentist in the last few weeks. I hadn't seen a dentist for almost four years prior to that. I didn't have insurance and I was afraid to go. I had a filling this morning and I can't feel my face. But my teeth look nice. And that big cavity is gone.

-I got some photos back from that photo shoot I did in March. The pictures look really nice and I would love to share them, but something tells me that I can't (I signed over the rights to those photos when I signed the model release and I'm sure they wouldn't be happy with me posting their photos in the public domain).

-I've done another 3 hours of work on that Triceratops painting. Unfortunately, that three hours of work only yielded the completion of two toe bones. I hope to have it finished in the next couple of weeks so I can put it in the local art show.

Friday, May 23, 2008

On the topic of Creationism...

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about this whole evolution/creationism thing. In particular, about the way that people talk about the debate and talk to one another when debating.

I recently bought a bumper sticker that said "Keep your mythology out of my science class." I thought it was so perfect and fitting. And then the other day I realized what was really saying. I don't know how I missed it, but originally, I didn't think it was all that offensive. I mean...religion shouldn't be in a science class and I firmly stand by that. What's offensive about that? Somehow, I didn't catch the part where it equated religion with mythology.

Do I really believe this?

Yes, in most respects I do. The stories told, for example, in the Christian religion, are just as real to me as myths are: not real at all. They're stories. And they function, for many, as stories do - reflecting our humanity and carrying in them meaning that can be used to explain things and create a model for our behavior.

Do I feel the need to let every religious person in the car behind me know that I think they're stories are myths?

No. First of all, the word "myth" carries all sorts of connotation. And if people took it for what it means without that connotation, then I wouldn't mind declaring that religious stories are myths. But people don't work that way.

I don't think religion should be a special exception. I don't think that I should have to tip-toe around my beliefs in hopes of not stepping on any toes. I don't think that churches should be tax-exempt. I don't think we should let babies die because their parents don't want them to have blood transfusions because god might not like it.

But I don't want to tell the guy in the car behind me that I think his beliefs are stupid. Even if they are. Because I have to live on this planet with hordes of people whose beliefs are different than mine. And I don't think the way to go about solving this science in America problem is to let people know how stupid they're being. I think it's a ground-up thing...

But again...damned if I'm going to let mythology into my science class.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's not owl poop!

Last week, when J and I were at Lone Rock Point, J found something rare and beautiful and exciting: an owl pellet!!!

I hadn't seen one since my elementary school days. I remember picking apart a giant pellet, filled with tiny bones. Of course, my pellet didn't have any cool skulls...but my classmates seemed to find plenty.

J let me do the dissecting, which was very nice of him (though I think he actually didn't want to touch the thing). So, after our hike, I set down a piece of newspaper and got to work with my fingers and a small nail. In keeping with tradition, the pellet did not have a recognizable skull. However, I did recognize some thin, broken sheets of bone as skull fragments.

I'm still not entirely sure what my owl friend ate, but judging by the teeth, I'd say it was most likely a mole.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Slacking today...

I'm not posting anything much today. I had a really bad night and I didn't get a lot of sleep. Also, I went to the gym and worked out and I can't really lift my arms high enough to type on the keyboard. I'm sure it'll be worse tomorrow (the arms...hopefully the rest will be better).

I did do something exciting today, though. I followed Brian's link to Columbia University Press's White Sale and bought the following books:

The Heretic in Darwin's Court
Memories are Made of This (this is for J)
The Earth Machine
Genes and DNA
George Gaylord Simpson: Paleontologist and Evolutionist
In the Beginning Was the Worm

I got all six books for only forty bucks, plus ten bucks for shipping.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


When we were leaving Lone Rock Point the other day, J found some woodpecker holes. We used to have woodpeckers in my yard when I lived in Connecticut about 10 years ago, and I remember vividly the hollow, rapid noises they made. Anytime I hear a woodpecker, I am transported back to the house we lived in: it's 6-acres of woods, ponds, streams and Mountain Laurel. The sound is almost haunting.

The woodpecker is beautifully adapted for pecking wood. From the skull to the tail feathers to the feet, woodpeckers have amazing adaptations that allow them to make holes in trees for nesting, feeding and even mating purposes.

The skull of the woodpecker is built to withstand multiple, rapid, high-impact collisions. The brain is encased tightly by the skull, with little cerebrospinal fluid, which keeps the brain from slamming into the skull interior with much force. The beak of the woodpecker is separated from the skull by a spongy matrix of bone, which absorbs shock. Additionally, the hyoid apparatus of the woodpecker has been shown to reduce shock to the brain.

The hyoid apparatus consists of bone and cartilage and controls the movement of the woodpecker's tongue. Muscles anchor the apparatus to the base of the skull and the apparatus extends behind the skull base up around the skull, sometimes as far as the nasal cavity. When the muscles anchoring the apparatus are engaged, the tongue can be extended as far as 1.5 times the length of the woodpeckers beak. This allows the woodpecker to reach far into holes in trees to grab insects and their larvae. The tongue of the woodpecker is also adapted for grubbing (hah!) in that it is rigid and barbed...perfect for spearing!

The 4th digit on the woodpecker's foot has a large range of motion, able to sit at a near-90 degree angle to the other digits. Combined with long stiff, tail feathers, the grasping capability of the woodpecker's feet allow the woodpecker to remain stable.

The anatomy of the woodpecker skull has been a source for the denial of evolution, but I can't imagine a more perfect example of evolution!


Ryan, Rusty. Anatomy and Evolution of the Woodpecker's Tongue.

L. J. Gibson (2006) Woodpecker pecking: how woodpeckers avoid brain injury Journal of Zoology 270 (3) , 462–465 doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00166.x

Juhachi, ODA. (2006) Mechanical Evaluation of the Skeletal Structure and Tissue of the Woodpecker and Its Shock Absorbing System. JSME International Journal. Series A. Solid Mechanics and Material Engineering (Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers). 49; 3. 390-396

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lone Rock Point

Last night, J and I took a hike to Lone Rock Point. It's home to an amazing exposure of the Champlain Thrust fault. The thrust can be best seen from on the water of Lake Champlain, but J and I didn't have the luxury of having access to a boat, so we did the best we could from the shore.

The Champlain Thrust was formed about 500 million years ago when two plates collided and overlapped. The upper plate is Dunham Dolostone; a carbonate rock plate thrust 35 - 50 miles over the Iberville Formation, which is composed of shale with calcite veins. Interestingly, the Cambrian Dunham Dolostone is older than Iberville Shale, which dates to the Ordovician. The fault extends from Canada to the Catskill Plateau, almost 200 miles. In the picture below, A is the Dunham Dolostone and B is the Iberville Shale, which has eroded away greatly.

If I knew more about geology, I'd go into more detail, but beyond what I've already written, I just don't really understand what I'm reading about! Something about slicklines...which I assume are grooves in the stone made by the movement of the plates against one another. They're supposed to be on the bottom face of the Dolostone. Here's a picture of the underside of the dolostone plate:

Are the lines extending from the upper right to lower left slicklines?

The shale was so eroded that it was almost powdery in some places, which made climbing around somewhat dangerous and very dirty. It was well worth it, though, to get up close to the rock and see the view of the lake from high up.

The geology of the area was only a piece of what made the hike so interesting, but you'll have to wait until the next post to see some of the flora and fauna.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chazy Reef field trip...

This past Saturday, J and I took a day to spend together as sort of an end of semester/only weekend we might have free together vacation. Now that J's semester is over (he got 4 A's and 1 yet-to-be-determined grade!!!) he's gotta find summer work and it's entirely possible that he'll be working weekends. I work weekdays. So it goes. Instead of taking off to some nice hotel or far-away country (which we can't afford, anyway), we took a day trip up to Isle la Motte, home of the world's oldest reef in which corals first appear. It was really quite beautiful there. Not only were there plenty of fossils, but the preserves we visited were filled with birds, turtles, frogs and fish. The first stop we made on the island was at Fisk Quarry Preserve, which contains the middle layers of the reef (the reef is 480-450 million years old). The quarry once was excavated for the black and grey limestone it yielded - limestone that was used in Radio City Music Hall - but has since been made into a preserve managed by the Isle la Motte Preservation Trust. After Fisk Quarry, J and I headed to Goodsell Ridge Preserve which houses the youngest layers of the Chazy Reef. The reef, formed during the Ordovician Period in the Iopetus Ocean, extends as far south as Tennessee. References

Semester Wrap-up (Spring '08)

Calculus: A

Chemistry: A


Friday, May 9, 2008

Montreal and the Biodome

A while ago (make that 2 weekends ago!) I went with J and his sister, C, and their mom, Mrs. J, to Montreal. I'd only been there once, even though it's the closest big city to my home. The first time I went, I went with a friend who was on a mission to find the perfect lube.


This time, rather than going to the sex shops, I went to a bunch of museums and some really nice restuarants. We left early on Saturday morning and got to the border at about 9:30 am. We crossed with no problems....oh wait...that's not true. The border guard was a huge bitch. She asked us for IDs and when we had to collect them from one another, she said "what...didn't you see all the cars in front of you getting their id's out?" 'Cause y' dare we not have our ID's ready as soon as we pulled up to her window (we actually had them all out, but they just weren't in ONE person's hand).

Whatever...that woman shouldn't be the face of Canada.

But I digress...
We checked into our hotel, Le Centre Sheridan, and went up to our tiny room (yes, the one we squeezed four people into). It was actually the perfect room for the weekend. I had a great time with J's family, even though we had to coordinate four showers each morning.

So we went to the Biodome, which was very cool. It was bird week or something and they handed out these bird identification checklists and asked us to record all the species of birds we saw, which I thought was a great idea until I actually got into the tropical dome and HOLY CRAP THERE WERE MONKEYS EVERYWHERE!! So I forgot about the birds for like, oh, the whole rest of the time.

The marine dome, forest dome and arctic domes were all very cool, too (but, as should be obvious by my lack of excitement, were NOT as cool as the monkey/tropical dome).

I even managed to see my favorite animal:

What??? You can't tell what that is? Let me help: it's a sloth. When I found out they had a sloth, I rushed off to find an employee who could help me locate it. It was at the very top of the dome, so I couldn't really see anything, but I did find out that sloths only poop about once a week! And they house blue-green algae in their hair!

After the Biodome, we went to the Jardin Botanique de Montreal and to the Insectarium. We arrived just in time to see the Butterflies Go Free event. Butterflies from around the world were fluttering all around a small greenhouse area. They were so beautiful and I was so excited that I nearly cried. We walked into the greenhouse and all the sudden there were butterflies everywhere and I could hardly contain my excitement so I just said "WOWWWWW!" and "they're so beautiful and -oh my god look at that one!!!" like, five hundred times. And the whole time we were there, I was secretly hoping that a butterfly would land on me because then everyone would think, aaaaahhhh, she's the butterfly whisperer. But then one DID land on me and I almost crushed it because it scared me and I didn't want a giant insect with a big face attached to my elbow and wouldn't you know, everyone in the greenhouse just happened to be standing right next to me when it happened.

Other things we did that I really liked:
-Ate at Chu Chai
-Went to the fine art museum
-Stayed up late laughing about stuff
-Hung out and had cheesecake in the hotel bar
-Went to the science museum
-Ate at a vegan buffet

Stuff we did that I didn't like so much:
-Ate a Burger King (first time I've eaten fast food in like, a hundred years...and only because it was the only place made J sick)

I'm totally in love...

I'll take one of these:

And one of these:

*The tree is Cercis canadensis. It's in the little tree garden behind my office building on OPU campus. I'm so in love with it...there aren't any leaves yet and the tree has these amazing flowers...