Monday, April 28, 2008

Okay...a quick one...

So, if you haven't already asked Zach for a trading card, you must do so, a.s.a.p. They're so funny. Check out mine:

And J's: should request one. All you have to do is send Zach a photo and he takes care of the rest. It couldn't be any easier!

I'm still really very busy (oh my...I just wrote "busty" and then got really embarassed, even though I am the only person who saw it). I have to learn a hundred million things for my math final; things that somehow went right over my head during the last two months. I don't see it happening, but I've managed to do fairly well in the course, so even if I utterly fail the final exam, I'll probably manage a B. I can rest easy with chemistry: I just got a 99 on the last test and if I opt not to take the final exam, my grade will be a B+. If I get better than a C on the final, I'll get an A in the course. Woohoo!

I have a ton of pictures of orchids/butterflies/animals to post from my visit to the Biodome, Insectarium, and Botanical Gardens in Montreal, but J's mom is still in town, so I don't expect to have those up for another day or so.

Thanks for stickin' around (assuming you have). I love you all...really, I do.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I may be absent for a bit...

My co-worker is out for the next two weeks, so I'm slammed with peer-review duties, accepting/rejecting manuscripts and learning how to handle letters to the editor. J's mom is in town this weekend and she's taking us to Montreal for a couple of days. Then it's the last week of school before finals. Then it's finals week. Then, hopefully, I'll be done with school, relaxed, reading lots and lots of books about paleontology and ready to write some posts that have more to do with ancient life than with my life.

'Til then you can expect whining about school (this math test is gonna KILL me), random pictures of museums (we're going to the archaeology museum!!)and hopefully a trading card with my name on it (you can get a feel for what I'm talking about here).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Like wasps?

Check out the blog of wasp expert, Dr. Kurt Pickett. It's all about wasps, research expeditions, wasp evolution and, as Dr. Pickett puts it, "getting stung the world over, one wasp at a time."

I expected to feel disgust, but I didn't expect the tears...

Wow. So I saw Expelled last night and, as I anticipated, the movie was a blatantly, unapologetically devised propaganda piece. The film is littered with images of fascism, dead bodies, the Berlin wall, kids being bullied and Ben Stein's smirking mug. The music reeks of Doomsday...the movie is an appeal to fear and uses absolutely NO reason.

I expected it to be bad, but I could actually tolerate the first 45 minutes, even though I knew that many of the sob stories about people being ostracized from the academic community were only small pieces of larger stories. It was maddening to know more than the movie revealed and watch the silhouetted audience nod solemnly in disgust at the terrible things being done to those poor people who stood up to the evil Darwinists. I made it through with minimal sighing, fore-head slapping and scoffing...just barely.

But then came the part where Ben Stein visited the gas chambers and mass grave sights...the remnants of the Holocaust. And that was where I stopped paying any attention...that was where I lost the will to look at the movie as objectively as possible (which was not anywhere near objective...but I tried).

I was outraged at the accusations made in the movie. Every time Ben Stein shook his head in disgust at the wrongs commited during the Holocaust...every time he put on a show to communicate how sad he was, how tragic it was...those poor people being killed off because of Darwin. What a disgusting thing to use the Holocaust in such a exploit what happened to all those people. Ben Stein is a jerk. The Holocaust was terrible, absolutely disgusting and terrible...and it should never be used in such a a propaganda device.

I didn't expect the tears of rage. I expected rage, oh yes, but not the sick, hot eye-burning rage.

I'm glad my money went to boosting Happy People's ticket sales, instead of putting money in the hands of disgusting filth like the people behind Expelled.

*Side Note* The theater was pretty packed, considering its usually attendance. I'm pretty sure there was a church group there, as many of the people were parents with their children and some elderly folks who all seemed to know one another. They all laughed at lot when, at the end, Stein interviewed Dawkins. I guess it was funny to them that Ben Stein had to repeatedly ask Dawkins if he believed in one god or another. And that Dawkins couldn't explain the origin of life. Honestly, my heart swelled a bit with pride at his ability to be okay with not knowing and his response to the god question: "why would you even ask me that?"

Friday, April 18, 2008


Yeah, I did it...I got rid of the green and blue layout. It was hurting my eyes. I much prefer this conservative white layout. But, boy, is it ever white.

You may also have noticed that I changed my profile information. I am no longer designing my own major. But I still live with J and some cats and I still live in a dinosaur-barren part of the U.S.

If you really hate the white layout, let me know. I can't promise I'll do anything about it...but I'm open to suggestions.

Expelled gets a really bad review...

Wow! Expelled got a TERRIBLE review in the NY Times!

The review:

One of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” is a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.

Positing the theory of intelligent design as a valid scientific hypothesis, the film frames the refusal of “big science” to agree as nothing less than an assault on free speech. Interviewees, including the scientist Richard Sternberg, claim that questioning Darwinism led to their expulsion from the scientific fold (the film relies extensively on the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy — after this, therefore because of this), while our genial audience surrogate, the actor and multihyphenate Ben Stein, nods sympathetically. (Mr. Stein is also a freelance columnist who writes Everybody’s Business for The New York Times.)

Prominent evolutionary biologists, like the author and Oxford professor Richard Dawkins — accurately identified on screen as an
“atheist” — are provided solely to construct, in cleverly edited slices, an inevitable connection between Darwinism and godlessness. Blithely ignoring the vital distinction between social and scientific Darwinism, the film links evolution theory to fascism (as well as abortion, euthanasia and eugenics), shamelessly invoking the Holocaust with black-and-white film of Nazi gas chambers and mass graves.

Every few minutes familiar — and ideologically unrelated — images
interrupt the talking heads: a fist-shaking Nikita S. Khrushchev; Charlton Heston being subdued by a water hose in “Planet of the Apes.” This is not argument, it’s circus, a distraction from the film’s contempt for precision and intellectual rigor. This goes further than a willful misunderstanding of the scientific method. The film suggests, for example, that Dr. Sternberg lost his job at the Smithsonian’s
National Museum of Natural History because of intellectual discrimination but neglects to inform us that he was actually not an employee but rather an unpaid research associate who had completed his three-year term.

Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn “Expelled” is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.

-Review by JEANNETTE CATSOULIS, New York Times, April 18, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

That darn Triceratops

Every time I visit OPU's blog about the Triceratops Project, I get a little more upset and feel a lot more excluded from what could be a great introduction to specimen preparation. I'm not going to link to the blog from here, because I've complained a lot about the project and I don't want it getting back to me if I ever do get a chance to take part, but I can tell you that if you type "Triceratops Project" into a Google search field, it'll be the first hit.


Unfortunately, it seems that nobody in the geology department has any idea how to prepare the fossil...and they can't find anyone to come to OPU to teach them how, so they're thinking of canning the project. The last time I spoke with anyone about the project was a couple of weeks ago, when I asked if there was anything I could do to keep the project afloat. . I contacted the faculty supervisor and offered to put a message out on the vertpaleo listserv to see if someone would be willing to help out. I never heard back.

I feel like I'm annoying people by trying to get involved...but at the same time, I don't care. I don't understand why someone who has shown as much interest in the project as I have hasn't been given the opportunity to work on it. I mean, I don't know anything about prep work...but it's obvious that everybody else working on the project doesn't know anything either. I'm only an undergraduate...but so are 4 of the 6 people working on the project.

I guess I wouldn't feel so bad if the person I'd last contacted was a grad student or something...but she's actually my old advisor, a professor and an important figure in the geology department. Of all people, she should be the most likely to at least write a "No thanks, we don't need any more help with this" email.

Ben Stein comes to OPU, Part Duex

I've been really curious about Stein's timely visit to OPU; it's just one week after the release of his movie, Expelled. The title of his lecture is "Ben Stein on Life," so there's really no indication of what Stein will talk about. The lecture is sponsored by the business department at OPU, so it's entirely possible that he'll drone on about his career in business. But I think it's also possible that he could talk about his movie.

I guess OPU thinks so, too.

I did a web search yesterday to see if I could find out more about the lecture and our local weekly had a brief article about it (here). The article more or less addresses the fact that Stein will be coming to OPU and that his "documentary" will be coming to Hippietown. The author commented on the fact that the theater hosting the movie usually features left-leaning documentaries and asked the theater owner about the movie.

"Owner Merrill Jarvis Jr. says the suggestion to program the movie came from [OPU], where an assistant in the dean of the business school’s office thought Expelled would pair well with the upcoming talk. Six days later, citing worries about controversy, the same employee asked Jarvis if he could postpone the film till after Stein’s visit."

Apparently, OPU realizes the potential for a controversial lecture. According to the article:

"Reached by phone, business school Dean [insert Dean's name] says the apparent mixed messages were due to a “miscommunication,” and that the concerns about Expelled came from “what appears to be an overzealous public relations office.” For her part, [insert Dean's name] asserts, “I’d rather be in a position to actually see this.” She doesn’t want students to be “ill-informed about the film” when they approach Stein at his post-lecture Q&A: “We teach critical thinking in the business school.”

The article also mentions that the theater owner was also contacted by a local church, requesting that the theater host the movie. The theater owner is trying to contact Stein to get him to come to a Q&A session at the theater.

So I guess this could be pretty controversial after all. I sure wish I wasn't the only person I know in the area who's kept up with the controversy surrounding the film. If anyone out there wants to come to the lecture with me, I'd sure love it. I can get you a ticket...I just can't offer you a place to stay if you're traveling from out of town (J's mom will be staying with us that weekend). But, I'd be more than happy to meet up with you on Friday, go to the lecture, and feed you dinner.

Darwin's notes...

Darwin Online now has a bunch of Charles Darwin's notes/photos/sketches online in a digital archive. They're really quite beautiful, though hard to read. Check them out here.

First seen at Pharyngula

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pretty angry...

I've got to admit: I'm pretty f$*king angry today. As usual, I got into work this morning and checked my favorite blogs for news (as I can no longer trust any of the popular news media for ANYTHING). A few stories really got to me...namely these:

Is it News that a Teenager is Skeptical?
Expelled draws more aggro
An open letter to my hippie neighbors

I really really want to move to Canada. Seriously. They have the oldest rocks in the world, the Royal Tyrrell Museum, universal health care, the loony and the Burgess Shale. And not as many f&*kwits as we have here (and I 'm in the relatively sane portion of the country).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spring: Part Deux

It's warm again here in the northeast corner of the U.S. And by warm, I mean in the 50's. But, still...warm compared to the awfully long winter we've had. I'm excited for summer...I have plans to do a lot of reading...mostly all those books I bought this winter that didn't take precedence over my course textbooks. I want to buy a bird book and some binoculars and learn to identify New England birds. I want to go to outdoor concerts, drink gingerade, play baseball and soccer and lay in the sun.

I also want to spend a lot of time with my new baby:

She's the first bicycle I've had in six years, which is ridiculous, given that I live in a city where I can bike to work faster than I can drive. It makes much more sense to NOT waste gas and NOT leave a giant stain on the environment. Isn't she pretty?

So here's to Spring (sorry Zach...yours'll come soon!) and being as green as possible. And to the last of the snow, adamantly clinging to the mountains:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Text message of the day...

In a text from J: "I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be left home alone."

Accompanying picture:

Ben Stein comes to OPU...

I just learned that Ben Stein is giving a lecture here at OPU called "Ben Stein on Life." I'm curious to see what he has to say, mostly if he's going to say anything about the movie, Expelled. I can't see him addressing anything religious...I assume he's going to understand that his audience is about as lightly religious as could be. I wouldn't put it past him, however, to talk about academic freedom and the Nazis.

I'll have a report after the 25th...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Huck Finn kid...

I used to keep a blog on Myspace, back before Myspace turned into the second-rate networking site that it is (y'all know that Facebook is much classier!). I was reading it over today and there's actually some nice stuff on it...stuff that's very different than what I write on this blog. It's more personal, more creative...

Anyway, I figured I'd pull a post from over there. Enjoy.

In another life, I was Huck Finn: short brown bangs hanging over
mischievous brown eyes, calloused feet planted firmly in the dusty dirt, tweed
pants rolled up to reveal bony ankles and tan legs.

Huck Finn was a genius. He was the child of a raging alcoholic...brilliant, with a lot of baggage and gifted with good intuition and an understanding of human nature. He spent his childhood taking care of his father and alternately defending himself from him. He befriended people who needed him and who, in their need for him, validated him. He was a hard shell with a soft interior...but a hard shell that was easily cracked.

Huck Finn learned from his mistakes. Given the hand he was dealt, he could have easily slid into the same lifestyle as his father...pissing away any chance for inner peace and pissing away all meaningful relationships. Instead, Huckleberry faced his mistakes and had the courage to look at them from outside the confines of social parameters. He recognized that, to a degree, he had to conform. He also recognized that, in his heart, he could only be himself. He strived to reach the balance between losing himself to society and ostracizing himself from it.

Huck appreciated each moment's simplicity. He did not need to be the richest, the smartest, the most delinquent or the most heroic. He was a perfect picture of humility.

"It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened."

Huck Finn is my hero today. Perhaps it's the anticipation of the oncoming spring...the knowledge that, soon, I will have my feet and skinny ankles exposed to the hot sun and dust. Perhaps it's the promise of adventure...but I would hope that somewhere inside, I am learning that I can fit into this world without compromising myself...that I can be myself without any apologies.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Geology Purity Test

I've heard that geologists are Earth's first "alcohol-based life forms" and this test confirms it.

I hear there are a few teetotaling geologists/paleontologists out there...hopefully I'll soon join your ranks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Richard Dawkins and Dr. Who....

There's not much more to say about can read about it here.

Orignially seen at Pharyngula

Monday, April 7, 2008

What a weekend...

It's definitely spring! This weekend it was in the 50's and I got to spend a lot of time outside, with friends.

Friday night J and I had our friends Jayme and Kooze over for dinner. J made a stir-fryish meal with veggies and seitan and we played Taboo. We also bought the crunchy version of Biore strips and had a nose-cleaning party. Tons 'o' fun.

We spent Saturday afternoon in bed doing homework. It was an all-out snugglefest...both of my cats were thrilled to have so much people-time.

Doing homework early on in the day left us plenty of time to hang around outside. We spent much of the afternoon with our friends Alex and Christy sipping coffee, eating Thai food and watching the sun set over the lake. I got to see a pair of ducks gliding over the water and had one of those moments where everything else disappeared and I felt completely content. I've made a conscious decision to spend more time listening and watching nature...I think it's something I need.

Sunday was laundry day. I did some homework, as well, outside at the coffee shop. I spent the rest of the daylight hours on the porch, listening to the cardinal (the one bird besides the crow and pigeon that I can identify by sound) that lives in my 'hood, reading Mary Oliver's poetry and writing in a journal. The trees are still bare so I can see the lake and the sunset from my porch.

It was truly a lovely weekend. I hope I can let go of school enough to enjoy more...and still hold on to school enough to finish the semester with high grades.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Early morning conversation

Me: Catching a glimpse of the SVP annual meeting circular..."I'm so excited to go to the annual meeting!"

J: "I'm going to wear my new glasses and introduce myself as J, Paleopsychologist."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Photobucket meme...

Profgrrrrl did this meme and it looked like a lot of fun...(sorry if it isn't as fun for you!):

Photobucket meme
1. Go to
2. Type in your answer to the question in the “search” box.
3. Use only the first page.
4. Insert the picture into your Blog.

1. What is your relationship status?


2. What is your current mood?


3. Who is your Favorite Band/Artist?


4. What is your favorite movie?


5. What kind of pet do you have?

Persian Cat

6. Where do you live?

Vermont Easter 2008

7. Where do you work?


8. What do you look like?

Punky Brewster

9. What do you drive?


10. What did you do last night?

chemistry lab

11. What is your favorite TV show?

12. Describe yourself:
That\'s It

13. What are you doing today?


Then this:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Plan...

I met with an advisor today and we made a plan for the rest of my education. I have a few concerns, which I hope to get some feedback on. Right off the bat: will having a BA instead of a BS keep you from getting into graduate school (studying a science)?

I changed my major from Geology (B.S.) to Zoology (B.A.). Instead of 3-4 years, I can finish in two years (not counting next year, which I'll be spending taking free classes). Here's a breakdown of the next few years:

Fall 2008: Work full time while taking Introductory Biology (first half) and Introductory Geology (Earth Systems Science).

Spring 2009: Work full time while taking Introductory Biology (second half) and Statistical Methods

Fall 2009: Quit job. Ecology and Evolution, Organic Chem (first half), and Field Geology. (this will be 12 credits...i.e. full time)

Spring 2010: Genetics, Organic Chem (second half), Molecular and Cell Biology and Earth, Life, and Environments Through Time. (15 credits total)

Fall 2010: Take Population Genetics, Evolution, Stratigraphy and Sedimentary Petrology and Mammalogy. (15 credits total)

Spring 2011: Take Advanced Genetics Lab (or Speciation and Phylogeny if it's offered), Earth Materials, Developmental Biology and Structural Geology. (12-14 credits)

So here's my question: If you were in charge of deciding whether or not to let me into grad school for paleontology or something related to it, would this be a nice undergrad course load? Keep in mind a few things: I plan on doing undergrad research, I plan on doing a paleo-related field camp and I'm a good student (and friendly and well-rounded to boot).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cool research bullets...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

In which school makes me cry...

I got an email saying that registration is coming up in 6 days. In order to take the introductory biology courses I want to take, I must be a biology major, so I contacted the department office manager and she referred me to three advisors/professors. I emailed one of them and she told me I should talk to an advisor...she referred me back to the department office manager. So, I called the office manager and asked to speak with or be scheduled to speak with an advisor. She got really snotty and said, "I've already referred you to advisors." I guess I should've contacted the other two professors/advisors, but I was confused as to why the first one hadn't offered to meet with me...I wanted to make sure that I was going about it all the right way.

I guess the professor I contacted doesn't want to meet with me. I guess that I'm going to get the bureaucratic, institutional runaround once again. I guess that professors are busy and are doing research and teaching and don't have time to advise. Fine. Then let's have the school hire some advisors. Or something. Because I feel like I can't get any help and I feel like I'm making important, uninformed decisions that could impact the course of my expensive education.

And lets talk about the Triceratops. Months and months and months ago, I contacted a billion people about working on a preparation project at OPU's geology museum. I asked my advisor about it and she encouraged me to talk to the guy in charge. Well...he got ill and my advisor is now in charge. And a bunch of undergraduates are now working on the project. I'm not one of them.

I feel let down. I've put a lot of work into my education this year. I've put myself out there and tried very hard to become visible to the community of people that will be my professors/mentors/advisors during the next few years. I've gone out of my way to introduce myself to people, attend lectures and departmental gatherings.

I feel invisible.