Friday, May 29, 2009

Monkey's Uncle

Every once in a while, my life will take on some kind of theme. Lately, primates have been it.

I recently picked up a copy of Our Inner Ape by Frans de Waal. When I say "recently," I actually mean "months ago." I finished it on my trip to Florida earlier this month. It's a fantastic read and I encourage anyone with an interest in primatology, human behavior or anyone with opposable thumbs to read it. In the book, de Waal describes years' worth of experience working with chimpanzees and bonobos that offers insight into our own species' behavior - conflict resolution, sex, power, motivation.

So, after reading Our Inner Ape, I was really excited to visit the Miami MetroZoo and see the chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Unfortunately, the orang display was closed because they had just introduced two new orangs to the zoo and had them in quarantine. The chimps were not very active when we arrived at their enclosure. I don't really blame them - it was almost 94 degrees. A couple of them - a male and female - were sitting in full view, but they were far away and I didn't get any good shots of them.

The 94 degree heat was getting to us and we decided, after seeing about 2/3 of the zoo, to call it quits. But, we were passing near the gorilla enclosure and I convinced J and his mom to put up with the heat (and my picture-taking) just a bit longer.

The gorillas were really spectacular. Several females were lounging in the shade and a huge male, I think his name is JJ, was stalking around. I got some great shots of the gorillas and was about to pack up my camera when I saw JJ head to the gorilla viewing cave. I rushed into the cave and got there in time to watch JJ approach. He was moving so fast for such a big animal and he was heading right toward the two inches of glass separating us. I have never, in my life, had such a physical reaction to fear and excitement. My legs started to go numb, my heart was pounding and I immediately broke into a sweat. JJ sped up when he saw he had an audience. He plunked down on his butt and looked right at me, for a second, before averting his eyes. At one point, he opened his mouth to show off his canines. He was magnificient. Beautiful and powerful. Words can't do it justice.

I was so taken with JJ that I spent a couple of bucks on a key chain, which seemed like a totally inadequate token.

And of course, now that I'm back in Vermont and have some free time, I've picked up a copy of The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor. I'm curious about the book and how it's going to frame the discovery of Ida - given all of the recent hype. Speaking of the hype, go read Brian's take on it!

More to come when I finish reading the book...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I'm thinking

that I need to shift the focus of this blog slightly. I have not had any motivation to write for a very long time. It's not that I'm bored by what I'm writing or reading or learning about, but that when the day is done and I've spent hours studying, I don't feel like putting a lot of time into posting something journalistic or complicated. And I don't know that that's really my style, anyway. Maybe it's just something that I decided I should do rather than something I wanted to do. I do that often.

I'm sure that what I've done is create an idea of what my blog should be. And I'm holding myself to that idea, even though I haven't actually been producing any work in sync with that idea. You're probably thinking, journalistic and complicated? I've been reading this blog for a while and there's nothing journalistic or complicated about the post content! And you are right. But in my head, I'm under the gun to produce those things. I've set up standards that I don't have the desire to live up to and as a result, I don't enjoy writing anymore. So, I'm changing my expectations. This blog is going to be something - but I'm not going to say what that something is because I don't want to set myself up to stay within certain boundaries until I'm sure about what it is that I want to be writing about.

So, I know I haven't really written about paleo in a long time, but there's a nagging feeling that I should, so I'm going to take that pressure off of myself. Accordingly, I'm not going to expect to remain on anyone's "paleo blogs" blogroll (or any blogroll for that matter). That's not to say that I will stop writing about paleo as a rule. I'm just going to write about what I want to write about, when I want to write about it. And hopefully, once I've stopped telling myself I have to write about paleo, I'll find that I want to.

So, I hope you'll still visit this place. I know that there are a lot of people out there that like to read a nice coherent, sciency blog. I'm just not in a place where I can devote myself to that. I'm still devoted to school, still devoted to all things ancient, still devoted to rocks and wildlife and all of those awesome things. But I'm also learning something about myself that I think I need to address: I tend to decide who I am and what I should be doing so rigidly that I mark any deviance from that as a failure. I'd like to be more flexible than that.

You can expect some changes here. I will still keep the same html address (which is though I will likely make some template changes. I might even change the name of the blog. I will probably post more photos. I expect that school will remain a central focus, since it's the most exciting and consuming part of my life. And hopefully, I'll be writing more often.