Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More blogs!

I just added two more blogs to my blogroll:

Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings

Dracovenator

Check them out!

Monday, June 23, 2008

A new blog...

Check out Paleo Dude!

Note to the dad with the bratty, horrible dyed-hair daughters...

When you're driving down the road and you let your pre-teen daughters lean out the car window and make nasty faces at people (especially those who are visibly upset) and you just sit and laugh and encourage them, don't be surprised when, one day, someone rams into your car or pulls a gun on your kids. I have a rage filter (albeit a shoddy one) but a lot of people don't. You're kids are going to learn that they're invincible and guess what? They're not. And it'll be your fault when their lack of manners and rude actions get them hurt or into trouble.

That is all.

Says it all...

"I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again." -Oscar Wilde

I change my mind often. Sometimes, I think I know how I feel and then I find out otherwise. Sometimes I tell myself I should feel one way when I really feel another and it causes me intense misery.

It's been a really long, hard week and I'm exhausted. I haven't had the motivation to write much on this here blog, though I haven't felt unmotivated enough not to care.

There was a time, recently, when I felt completely at ease and okay with everything. I wonder, often, when I'll feel that way again. Perhaps those times are few and far between and I have mistaken the nature of things and have arrived, falsely, at the conclusion that most people are really happy most of the time.

I know, for sure, that much of the suffering I experience is at my own hand. Or rather, my own mind. It is easy for me to see that negative thoughts produce negative feelings. I am obsessive-compulsive and frequently, when I glom onto negative thoughts I can't let them go.

I have said "I" too many times in this post. But sometimes that's what it takes for me to let go.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Umm....

Have you heard about the 17 pregnant teenagers from Gloucester High School in Massachusetts?

I guess the girls made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. None of them are over the age of 16 (in fact all of them are 15, except for one 16 year-old) and one of them got knocked up by a 24 year-old (he's also homeless, but I think his age is the important thing, since it makes him a statutory rapist).

The high school provides day care for pregnant teens, which I suppose is a double-edged sword. Pregnant teens should be able to finish high school, but perhaps having the day care there enables them or encourages them.

Anyway, I'm pretty damn shocked by this. When I was in high school, people were already sexually active, but it was really uncool to get pregnant. Every pregnant mother dropped out of school (there were only two that I remember from my four years there) due to the enormous amount of ridicule they received. But, I did go to a fairly liberal, middle class high school...perhaps in the very Catholic fishing town of Gloucester, things are a bit different.

Still...17 pregnant teens in one year???

I thought I was pretty damn smart at 15 and I certainly thought I knew everything, but getting pregnant was NEVER an option then. I had romantic notions about everything, sure, but I was never under the illusion that having a baby would be all warm and fuzzy and sunshine and roses.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Echo's Lion Cut

As promised in the last post, here's a video of Echo, sportin' her lovely "lion cut." It was taken this morning...we have a little ritual: I sit down to put my shoes on and she pays a lot more attention to me than usual. She probably thinks if she acts cute enough, I won't leave. Sometimes it delays my departure by a good ten minutes.

That's me scolding her for trying to eat Zeus's food. She knows better.

video

Emily's Lion Cut

Echo and Emily got haircuts again this past week. Mostly because I'm trying to avoid cleaning up what I call "poop butt," but also because it was HOT and they were starting to act like they were dying (slight exaggeration). I realized that I've shown you many pictures, but no picture can show the "lion cut" in all it's ridiculous glory, so...I give you a short video of Emily playing with a crinkle ball. I'll post one of Echo next.

video

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I don't see how this will work...

I'm not planning on going to school full time until Fall 2009, but I was curious as to how much financial aid I could expect when that time rolls around so I applied for full financial aid this year as if I were going back this fall. And after some calculations, I don't see how I'll ever be able to pay for school.

All together, including tuition, books, insurance and fees, school is going to cost me about $15,710 per year. If I'm going to go full time and work minimally, I'll probably have to take out another $9,000 a year for living expenses (1,000 per month).

Grand total for school for one year: $24,710.
Grand total available in loans/grants: $17,500.

Something just doesn't add up.

I don't think I can work much during the school year. I'll be taking only four classes a semester, but each of those classes will be either lab courses or advanced science courses. If I want to maintain good grades (and I do...grad school is in the plan), I'm gonna have to work pretty hard which won't leave me with a lot of time outside of school.

I suppose I can apply for tons of scholarships, but I don't have a great GPA right now (because of a semester 7 years ago) and I also don't have the option of doing research (which would put me in the competition) because I'm working full time.

One question: When I apply for financial aid for 2009-2010, is there a way to indicate that my income from 2008-2009 will NOT be the same for 2009-2010? I mean, FAFSA will get my info and according to them, I'll be making a decent salary. So, can I tell OPU that going full-time will mean that I won't have income and will they base my financial aid on that information?

Anyone want to put me through school?


**UPDATE**

Turns out I have $10,000 available in loans from lenders...so I guess it does work out okay.

Thoughts on "How Life Began"

Last night, the History Channel aired a show called "How Life Began." It's been talked about on the blogosphere at Pharyngula (and probably a bunch of other blogs, too) and the general consensus before the release of the show was that it had the potential to really stink; and by that I mean it had the potential to be inaccurate.

I wasn't very impressed with the show, but that mostly had to do with the fact that it just barely skimmed the concept of abiogenesis and had really cheesy analogies. The factory of life (where all the atoms necessary to life are mixed to produce cells) analogy was pretty annoying and the factory ended up being the backdrop for the numerous talking heads that popped up. Little blips of computer-generated lights flew behind their heads as they spoke and it was hard to pay attention.

The show built up the appearance of multicellular life, but then failed to mention theories on how it came to be. I thought this was one of the most unfortunate parts of the show because, in my own experience, learning about how life may have become multicellular was one of those pivotal moments when I thought well, crap, this really does make a lot of sense.

There was a brief segment on the Burgess Shale, which got me all excited (and yelling "J! Come see this...it's the Burgess Shaaaaaaale!!!!") because I'm reading Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life right now and I recognized the name "Walcott."

There was mention of the idea that science and religion don't have to clash over origins of life in the beginning of the show and it showed up several times throughout. Also, in the factory of life, there was a red curtain that hid whatever it was that made the first cell, so there was the implication that it could have been anything.

After I finished watching the show, I headed over to Pharyngula to read PZ's take on it. I think I must have missed about half of the show because I don't recognize the second half that he talks about (and considered to be the best part).

Oh well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Crazzy weather, part deux...

So, we didn't have tornadoes...this is as close as we came:



It actually did look like a tornado. Right after I took this picture, the cloud got pulled toward the ground and more clouds got pulled with it, but instead of making a funnel, they just made a wall. Thankfully, I didn't have to put the kitties in their carriers and move them to the basement. I wasn't feeling especially prepared for that.

The storm wasn't really that impressive at all. No hail (at least not near my place), no power outages, no major cloud-to-ground lightning...

But after the storm, the sky was AMAZING! The sun was just setting and some of the clouds parted enough to let the light out and the result was a really brilliant orange sky in the west and a dark grey/blue sky to the east.

Crazzy weather...

So, we're under a tornado watch out here, which is weird. I doubt there will be a tornado, but I don't doubt that we'll get some crazy hail and wind. I'm still at work, so I'm all worried about my kitties and my apartment, especially Echo, who freaks out when she hears thunder. I really want to go home and snuggle with her and make sure everything is okay, because, y'know, if there were a tornado, my presence would keep my apartment from exploding apart.

I used to be really obsessed with tornadoes and thunderstorms as a kid. I cut out pictures of them from magazines and plastered my walls with them. I sat outside before storms just watching them roll in and then sat with my face plastered to the window while they raged on outside.

Every time we visited my family in Kentucky, I imagined each storm turning into a raging tornado. I planned out emergency procedures.

For my 16th birthday, I didn't want a party - I wanted to go tornado hunting. My mother wasn't into that, mostly because it involved a LOT of $$$ and probably because it also involved me going out chasing potentially deadly storms.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The current state of paleontology...

can be explored at David Hone's blog, here. The first post is number 73, and each post after that will include answers (by lots o' paleontologists) to the following questions:

1.. What do you think is the great unsolved mystery of palaeontology?
2. What do you think is the most exciting topic / area of research in palaeontology right now?
3. What do you consider to be the biggest problem with palaeontology?
4. What area of palaeontology do you think is most neglected?
5. How do you think the general public view science / palaeontology in your country?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I somehow forgot to mention...

I saw a moose! I've lived in New England my whole life and I've never, ever, seen a moose.

And then yesterday, as J and I were driving home from Button Bay State Park, it happened! We passed a big cow pasture with really beautiful Holsteins and then, as we came to the edge of the pasture, I saw what looked like a big, brown horse. I was about to say, "Look, J...a horse!!!" but then the giant horse lifted its head and became a moose.

I was driving, so I didn't have a camera handy. And I wasn't about to stop on the side of the road to get a picture...the moose was definitely freaked out by our car, but I've heard stories where moose just got angry at cars. Needless to say, we didn't get a picture.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Button Bay State Park

I took this past Monday off from work and J and I set out to have another interesting biology/geology adventure. Button Bay's name comes from the button-like clay concretions lining shore of Lake Champlain. Apparently, there are also plenty of fossils of Ordovician age located on Button Point . I say "apparently" because we didn't really take the time to look. I regret this...but it was at the expense of oohing and aaahing over snakes, osprey, turtles and herons, so I don't feel terribly guilty about it.

We got to the park around 10:00 am and rented two kayaks for a four-hour time slot. It was supposed to rain around 4:00, so we had just enough time to take the boats out and get them back before the rain started. We started out at the boat launch, which is really just a rocky slope complete with rotting snakes and algae. At the launch, a Northern Water Snake was resting out on the rocks in the sun. We successfully avoided him and managed to get the kayaks into the water without getting soaked.


J in front of Ship Island (Button Point to the right).

Unfortunately, the first half of our kayaking expedition was done without cameras in hand. Neither of us were sure about kayaking on Lake Champlain, which is often quite wavy. We didn't want to risk getting our cameras wet.

After getting our sea legs, we kayaked out to Ship Island, which was only a few strokes away from the shore. I'm pretty sure we could have just as easily walked to the island; the water was incredibly clear and shallow.

We didn't get out of the kayaks at Ship Island, mostly because the island's flora was incredibly dense. Only a small rocky beach seemed fit for exploration and J and I were much more interested in the snakes swimming just off-shore. We managed to corner a Norther Water Snake between our kayaks to get a closer look.


Northern Water Snake caught in the middle of a meal .

After exploring Ship Island, we paddled over to Button Island, which was home to lots of geese, gulls and bees. We left our kayaks on the eastern side of the island and walked along the shore of the island to the southernmost tip, where we were forced to move toward the center. We walked the center of the island back up to the north point. At the northern point of the island, gulls and terns were resting on a rocky outcrop. We had to dodge goose crap and bees to get to the outcrop, but it was worth it. We came upon what must have been a goose nesting site. In the water, I saw an unhatched, unbroken goose egg and decided I had to figure out what was inside. So, we got back in the kayaks and paddled around to the outcrop. On the way out, we somehow got within six or seven feet of a huge Canada Goose without noticing. I finally found the egg and tried to get it out of the water without using my hands, but my kayak paddle wasn't cutting it. So, instead of handling a rotting egg manually, I decided to break it open underwater (it was actually already cracked). The egg must've fallen in the water early on in the hatching process because a perfect yolk came out.

After the egg excitement, we decided to paddle back toward the mainland shore. Just as we were approaching the tip of Button Point, two dime-sized fuzzy spiders decided to have a brawl on the rim of the cockpit of my kayak. Now, I am pretty freaked out by spiders as it is, so to have two of them get all agro just inches from my legs was terrifying. I begged J to get them off of my boat, all the while not letting him near me until I had landed the kayak and gotten out of the way. The spider incident was distracting enough so that I missed the fossils that were apparently just under my feet.

So we got back in our kayaks and headed north along the western side of Button Point. The beach-like shoreline disappeared and instead, walls of what I think was limestone rose from the water. We paddled lazily and munched on some walnuts and bread and finally came to a nice little inlet that promised to have interesting wildlife; it was shallow, had lots of trees growing in the water and was lined by tall pines. No sooner had we gotten into the inlet when a freakin' huge Osprey launched itself from a pine tree, clutching a small rodent or fish in his talons. He was AMAZING! We just sorta stared at him with our mouths gaping open and made sounds like "uuuunnnnghhhh" and "oooooohhhhhhhh."

The Osprey flew back in the direction we'd just come from so we turned around and headed back in hopes of catching another glimpse. And we did! He was perched in a dead pine tree, picking at his catch.


One of the many Painted Turtles we saw.

Since we'd left our electronic devices in the car, we didn't know what time it was (the sun wasn't a good indicator, since we didn't know what direction we were facing) and we decided to head back towards the boat launch. On the way, we passed almost 20 turtles, all resting along the same stretch of beach. They were definitely Painted Turtles, though at one point I thought I saw a snapper. Some were the size of flattened basketballs and others more baseball-sized. When we floated by, then slipped into the water and minutes later, we were surrounded by little triangular turtle heads, poking just above the surface of the lake. We also scared a heron and some ducks on our way back in and J commented on just how clumsy the ducks looked as they tried to take off from the water. I noticed that they pushed off with their feet several times during takeoff.


J watching a heron fly away (just up and to the left of his head).
If you click on the picture, you can look at it in more detail. Notice
the turtle peeking out of the water just below the tail end of J's kayak.

When we got to the car, we realized we still had two hours of kayaking left, so we grabbed our cameras and went out again, in hopes of recreating our initial journey. But we didn't go out without donning more sun screen. By 2:30, we were being eaten alive by black flies, were completely exhausted and were alarmingly sunburned. So, we turned in our oars and headed home.

I got the world's most ridiculous sunburn, which caused me to have an upset stomach and slight chills. Still, I had an amazing day (and an amazing night's sleep!).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What is this?

I'd really like to identify this fossil:

It's at the Fisk Quarry Preserve in Isle la Motte, Vermont. The fossil dates to the Ordovician and is part of the middle layer of the Chazy Reef.

Any ideas?