Monday, March 31, 2008
Game night was fun. About 10 people got together, played Taboo and Cranium, drank veggie/fruit juice, ate shrimp gumbo and acted silly. At 8, we turned off the lights for Earth Hour and lit candles. One of the hosts of game night is a professor at OPU. He teaches evolutionary biology. I'm excited to have met him and to get the chance to know him more.
Sunday morning, J and I had a plan to lay in bed, eat cereal and watch tv. We bought Fruity Pebbles. Let me just say that Fruity Pebbles tasted so delicious when I was a kid. They're not delicious now. They're GROSS. But in such a wonderful, mouthful-of-sugar way. Anyway...we didn't get to do much relaxing. I obsessed over my chemistry homework and J obsessed over his big research paper and after watching 1/4 of Bridget Jones's Diary and 3,000 commercials, we gave up and started doing schoolwork.
I love school...and I'm in no hurry to get out of it...but damn...one or two days with nothing to do would be delicious.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The field trip I want to go on begins at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. It only has 44 slots open. It costs $80.
Do I pay an extra $50 to get in a day earlier so that I can explore the Cleveland Shale? Or are my chances of getting a spot on the trip close to nil and would I be wasting my time/money?
I REALLY want to go on the field trip...but I'm also terrified that I'll be a burden to all the people who will actually know the stuff we're looking at. I also don't want to change my flight and then not be able to go on the trip.
Does anyone have an opinion on this? Some advice?
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
- Had a calculus exam last night. It was the second exam this semester and since the last exam, we've covered integration by substitution, integration by parts, trigonometric integration, trigonometric substitution, volumes of rotation, improper integrals and indeterminate forms. The class moves at a VERY fast pace and I was really worried about the exam, mostly because it requires a good core understanding of trigonometric identities and limits involving the natural log. The verdict: it went REALLY well. We were asked to answer 10 of the 12 questions. I answered all 12 and had a hard time choosing which two I didn't want graded. I'll find out on Friday, I think, how I scored, but a score above a 90 will bring my grade back up to an A. Currently, only one student in the class of 20 has an A. It's not me.
- I'm meeting with someone today to discuss the individually designed major option here at OPU. To be eligible for the IDM, you must be no further along than your first semester, junior year. As a transfer student with 130 credits, I am considered a senior, thus making me ineligible for the IDM. I have a problem with this, though, because only 12 or so of those 130 credits will count toward a major in Geology or Biology...or in any science...which is the route I'm taking. I'm hoping that I can somehow strike all those credits from the record and gain freshman or sophomore standing. Then I'll actually be the "self-designed student" I set out to be.
- Last night, as I was leaving the test, I asked my calculus teacher for clarification on some instructions. One question said "find the partial fractions expression. Do not find the constants." The next question said "find the partial fractions expression." I wanted to make sure, on the second question, that he wanted us to find the constants, as he did not state otherwise. I asked, "do you want us to find the constants for this problem?" and he replied, rather snidely, "yes...that's why I said 'find'." Now, I've had a problem all semester with this...asking questions that I think are legitimate (especially since he encouraged us to ask questions about the instructions at the beginning of the test) and leaving without a good answer and feeling stupid for asking. He's a great teacher, but I've become more and more afraid of approaching him because he has a tendency to be condescending. This is frustrating because, as a student, I'm not in the business of knowing everything. It is my job to learn...to ask questions.
Monday, March 24, 2008
A mirror neuron, according to Wikipedia, "is a premotor neuron which fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another (especially conspecific) animal. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of another animal, as though the observer were itself acting." In humans, mirror neurons are thought to be the source of empathy.
The performance was centered around the implications of mirror neurons for human beings. Are mirror neurons responsible for the emotional reactions we have to other people's actions? Are we really just a system of "monkey-see, monkey-do" impulses?
One-by-one, the performer led the audience through varying emotional states. First, she had us watch a video of a baby laughing (and then crying). The audience giggled, "awwwwed" and smiled at the child. She then put on a video of a man talking about the discovery of mirror neurons. Oddly enough, the audience became very quiet and bored (science and its loyal fans) Videos were shown of football games, beer was passed around, people were cheering and jumping up and down. Up until the football part, I was feeling really self-conscious about how I reacted. I knew that the point was to have the audience experience their own mirror-neuron actions, but part of me felt like I was being manipulated and I felt very defiant. Eventually, I was able to let go of that and allow myself to experience the performance and I enjoyed it much more then.
Anyway, the most amazing parts of the performance were when the performer did an "empathy test" where she symbolically put on a random person's shoes and "experienced" a person's autism. Many people in the audience were laughing, but I worked closely with an autistic girl in high school and the performance was reminded me so much of her that I could find nothing funny about it. Instead, I could feel the onslaught of emotions; extreme frustration, sensory overload, extreme frustration... Apparently, researchers believe that mirror neurons are involved with autism; that autistic people do not have the neuron firing that would allow them to connect with the way other people communicate and act.
My other favorite part was and "observation experiment" in which the performer blew up a balloon in eight different ways and had her assistants write down what they saw. The male assistant's account was very physically detailed while the female assistant's account included comparisons of actions to emotions.
I'd highly recommend seeing the show. I hear it's going to tour the U.S. I must say that it was a bit upsetting, but in a good way. And at the same time, it was also very calming.
Friday, March 21, 2008
PZ Myers tried to attend a screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed last night with his family and they wouldn't let him in! Apparently, they threatened to have him arrested if he tried to go into the theater. Thankfully, while they were busy expelling PZ, they failed to notice PZ's companion, Richard Dawkins, and ended up letting him in.
Oh, the irony!
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I think this is stupid...but I think you get into sticky business when you tell people they can't give tours in a museum. The museum does not affiliate itself in any way with the tours, but if there aren't any measures being taken to let the tourists know that, then there's always the appearance of the museum backing the tours. The museum is a public institution; can they disallow the tours? What about the mission of the museum? Does it matter?
I'd love to hear more about this from someone with a more firm stance. I mean, my initial reaction is "Hell no! These tours are not okay and should not be allowed," but there's more to this than my gut feeling and emotional reaction.
I tried reading the comments on the linked article, but I only made it to the second page before I had to stop...I just can't stomach this stuff like I used to. The constant stream of blind watchmaker arguments, "god said so" arguments and arguments for evolution that are made by people who don't know what they're talking about make me want to rip off my face. Here are a few comment gems that raised my hackles a bit:
- Time will not perfect any creature. We only lose species. We don't gain them. We have lost a vast variety of plants and animals and we are still losing them. Time does not evolve anything. People have made the mistake of assuming that the historical account of Scripture is not accurate. That is a big mistake because there are some other very important facts of Scripture that people are missing as well. Our sinful state. Our need for redemption. The only way of eternal life through sanctification by the Spirit of God and faith in the truth. Our history proves the validity of God's word through more ways than one. There are at least three very large extinct creatures spoken of in the historical accounts of Scripture proving that evolution is a lot of speculation without any proof. Because some atheistic evolutionist said so, or because history says so? I will go with history. Why would the historical accounts lie about the existence of dinosaur like creatures?
- Lies have been coming from school curriculum for years. People have been duped. It's about time the truth came out. How does a dinosaur grow sharp teeth? The teeth were already there. It is something from something already there. It is not something from nothing as the atheistic religious fundamentalists would try to convince you. Hello!!!???
- Life on earth has been evolving for about 3.5 billion years, although admittedly it didn't accomplish much in the first couple billion.
- Evolution is not a science. The study of history is a science.
- When it comes to facts, Scientists are the closed-minded ones, espcially regarding Radiometric dating, they do not take into account that the Carbon dating, is EXTREMELY innacurate and unstable, there have been numerous cases, the one in particular with the Mount St. Helens eruption where the rock from the eruption was "dated" to be in the million's of years. Another instance is with the findings of humans and dinosaurs fossilized together. Hmmm. who's ignoring the facts now?
Photo from ABC News
So, the museum HAS to let the tours happen. It's a matter of public funding...the museum is public and to not let the tour groups in would be discrimination and/or a violation of freedom of speech/religion. The museum employees also do not have the right to correct anything misleading/wrong with the tour guides' speeches because it is seen as harassment. The tour guides, in turn, cannot give the impression that they're affiliated with the museum. I think, though, that young kids aren't thinking about the affiliation of the tour guides... they see a man in a museum and they regard him as some kind of authority.
The museum is doing exactly what it should be doing...allowing people to access the information without impeding on the rights of others. Sadly, in a country where everyone is supposed to be free to say and believe what they like, we often end up having to deal with such blatent wrongness. Freedom ain't free.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
J spent some time trying to get me to "smile big":
And then I got my revenge (check out my awesome poofy hair...oh man, I don't know what to do with hair...I just let it hang out):
My handsome bro looked on, not especially amused at the antics of his old fart of a sister. He's never really made an appearance on my blog...just that once and it was only his fat little baby hand. Welcome, T!
I was curious about those “dinosaurs and reptiles had sex at really young ages” articles. I didn’t know a lot (still don’t) about how research is done on the ages/growth rates of dinosaurs and I had a lot of questions, like 1) How can you tell the age of a fossilized animal? 2) How can you tell when a fossilized animal started having sex, roughly*? and 3) How do the rates of growth vs. sexual maturation compare to extant animals?
After my initial rebellion, I took a peek at some of the dino/reptile sex articles and found some answers:
1) The ages of the subjects of the articles, dinosaurs and avian reptiles, were determined by studying growth rings. The bones of both dinosaurs and avian reptiles feature tree-ring-like rings that indicate periods of growth. The rings, according to Gregory Erickson, associate professor at Florida State University, are likely formed annually due to the similarities to the growth rings of organisms with common ancestry and give a good approximation of the age of the animal.
*Okay, this post is impossible to write without innuendo…sorry.
Erickson, G. M. 2005. Assessing dinosaur growth patterns: A microscopic revolution. Trends in Ecology and Evolution: 20: 677-684.
Peake, T. (2005, June 2). Dinosaur fossil bone leads to gender, age determinations. Dinosaur Fossil Bone Leads to Gender, Age Determinations. NC State University press release. Accessed February 16, 2008 at http://www.ncsu.edu/news/press_releases/05_06/133.htm
Friday, March 14, 2008
- Galloping mammoths?
- Pyramids in 10,000 BC? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the first pyramids were built around 2600 BC...
- Sappy sappy love story. Predictable. I actually laughed out loud a few times.
- Is this the sequal to Clan of the Cave Bear? I'm pretty sure that was a story about a blue-eyed girl of "other people" coming to a community and changing the course of their lives.
- D'Leh's girlfriend: man, did her eyebrows bother anyone else? I mean, for a Mesolithic girl, she had some really perfect eyebrows with absolutely no stray hairs. But they tried to make them look dark and bushy...they failed. Oh, did they fail.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Anyway, last weekend, I downloaded the track for The Matrix and Jurassic Park. I didn't get to see either until last night, when J and I hunkered down with some Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch and The Matrix.
How's the whole operation? AMAZING! So funny! I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and had very few complaints. Some highlights:
- Any time Keanu Reeves's mug is on screen and something happens, the guys say, "Whooooaaaa" in a surfer voice. They also make constant references to joints flying out of Keanu's clothes any time he does any kind of flip/spin.
- They refer to Morpheus as "Snuffleupagus J. Morhpeus."
- When Agent Smith pulls out the little robotic "bug" that goes into Neo's belly, one of the guys says, "Robotic cigarette anyone?"
There's really no way to make those lines funny...you have to watch it for yourself. Download the Rifftrax for $3.99 and play it simultaneously with the movie. The only drawback is that it's hard to pause in the middle of the movie (you have to pause the track and the movie at the same time) and that if the track or DVD skips, they get out-of-sync and it's a pain in the butt to get them in sync again (though I think you can avoid this by downloading the Rifftrax player and playing the DVD on the computer...we watched the DVD on the television and played the track on the computer).
Anyway, I laughed just as much if not more than I do when I watch any of the original MST3K movies.
Friday, March 7, 2008
- Thank you all for your comments about J and his nagging illness. He went to the doctor yesterday and apparently, she was wonderful. She tested him for flu (which was negative) and mono and did an immunodeficiency panel. We get results fairly soon...maybe Monday. He feels like crap, but it's really nice to know that the doctors are doing something about it.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
They've ruled out the flu, pneumonia and parasites. Blood work looked good...nothing wrong with the kidneys or liver that they could detect via blood. Chest x-ray was clean, as was the urine sample.
The symptoms are all over the map: vomiting, diarrhea, fever, phlegmy cough, sinus congestion, headaches, nausea, fatigue. He's also had a rash or two, but they didn't seem to coincide time wise with the other symptoms.
Antibiotics haven't helped. If anything, they've made him feel worse.
I can't concentrate on anything else. I've spent my whole day with a hollow feeling in my belly and I've obsessively visited medical websites trying to find an answer. I can't focus on my work and I keep looking at the clock, but I don't know what I'm waiting for. Leaving work won't make J healthy.
He's at the doctor's office right now...but I don't have much faith in the doctor anymore...last time he was sick, they told him to "come back if he got sick again." But they say that every time.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
So I have a question. First, can a teacher present any information relevant to the subject being taught? Is it okay for a history teacher to teach the alternate view that the Holocaust never happened and to support that view?
My junior high school science teacher, Charles Apinis, was one of the best teachers I've ever had. He had a way of teaching science that allowed us to reach conclusions about the lessons before he had to say what those conclusions should be. He let you stay after school and experiment in the lab. He often sat us down when he overheard one student mistreating another and lectured us on life. We learned about science and we learned how to treat people with kindness and respect.
Mr. Apinis died a little less than a decade ago and when he passed, we found out that he was deeply religious. Never, during the years I had him as a teacher, did he mention god in the classroom. He taught us about evolution and the rest of science without injecting his personal beliefs into the curriculum. If he ever felt that evolution was a sham, he certainly didn't feel the need to tell his students.
A science teacher should teach science; a system of gathering knowledge using the scientific method, using reproducible, falsifiable experimentation. If something does not fit into that category, then it shouldn't be supported in a science classroom. Allowing teachers to teach whatever they want because they simply disagree with the curriculum is a slippery slope.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
- We have spring break next week and while I still have to work 40 hours, I'm hoping to really catch up on some practice problems for both my chemistry and calculus classes.
- I got a B on my second chem test. I know I wrote about how a B wasn't so bad...but this B didn't feel very good. Why? Because I really thought I did better on this test than on the first. And I didn't. The good news: I got a B and not a C or a D or an F. The bad news: this B brought my overall grade down from an A to a B.
- In the coffee shop the other day, I overheard a group of folks talking about evolution and religion. I wanted to jump in, but I was a bit shy. Instead, when they finished talking, I turned to J and said, "I really wanted to talk to them." He said, "That's what your conference will be like (SVP)." I hope so. I feel a bit starved for like-minded folks.
- I have a "go-see" today. It's basically an interview for models. Really, it's a chance to get judged entirely on your looks while people try to pretend they're interested in what you do. I don't do this stuff often. Once I reached age 23 and reached a whopping 135 pounds, I became too old and fat to be a model...but they still have me on file and every once in a while, somebody thinks they might like to use me. This happened last year with Abercrombie and Fitch. They selected me out of a bunch of folks and I went in and I could just see their disappointment that I was an old fart. And then they asked me what I liked to do and I made the mistake of saying, "I like to help people with drug abuse problems." I should've stuck with "I like boys and pajama parties." This time may be different...the client is a natural, "we like normal bodies" type of company. And they're looking for local. I'm about as local and normal as they come. The money would be nice (it'd cover the rest of the SVP meeting and my rent for next month).
Second, J has been slowly building a web page. He's taking a web design class this semester and he's built his own website from scratch. You'll find a great recipe for halvah there (in the homework links) and some info on Dawn of the Dead. He's having a lot of fun building the page and he was nice enough to link to my page.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
The second important even occurred years later, in the 1970's, when Eric Wieschaus and Christiane Nusslein-Volhard discovered a gene in Drosophilia melanogaster (house fly) that caused asymmetry in the flies' body segments. A mutation in the gene caused the fly embryos to have spiky appendages and the gene was fittingly named Hedgehog.
In the 1990's, Cliff Tabin, Andy Mahon and Phil Ingham all drew connections between the Hedgehog gene and the ZPA. If the Hedgehog gene was responsible for the symmetry of the house fly body, could it also be responsible for the symmetry of limbs and digits? They teamed up to search for the Hedgehog gene in chickens and eventually identified it. They named the new gene Sonic hedgehog after the SEGA Genesis video game character. After attaching dye to the gene, they found that it was active in the ZPA.
The Sonic hedgehog gene is essential in human development to the development of limbs. Depending on the concentration of the gene and the frequency at which the gene switches on and off, we get digits that look like pinkies and digits like thumbs. We share this gene with all limbed animals, including skates and sharks and chickens.
Shubin, Neil. Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body. New York: Random House, 2008.