Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Look at that face!

My coworker thinks that Emily looks like she's in love:

But this picture makes it pretty obvious that she's not:

Intro Bio

My introductory biology course is fairly intense. Rather than cramming a lot of information into a single semester, the class is broken into two semesters; during the first semester we covered the tiny stuff: cells, macromolecules, cell division, etc. This semester, we're going macro; we're studying ecology and evolution, as well as animal development and physiology. The class meets three times a week, for an hour each meeting and there is a 3-hour lab component that meets weekly. We have done several studies/experiments and written lab reports for each. I don't particularly enjoy writing the lab reports, but I understand the relevance of writing to a career involving research, so I put my best effort in.

So far, our labs have been pretty straightforward. The first week, we mated some Drosophila melanogaster flies and predicted the phenotypes of their offspring. In the second week, we studied the effects of population density on Paramecium multimicronucleatum. In the third week, we tested the effects of various common pollutants on Daphnia magna. In the fourth week, we looked at interpecific competition between Paramecium multimicronucleatum and Paramecium tetraurelia. I semi-enjoyed all of those labs, though I was a bit unmotivated when it came to sharing the studies via written reports. Why did you conduct this study? Because I was told to. Why did you use the procedure that you did? Because I was told to.

The last couple of weeks, I've really started to enjoy the lab section. Last week, we gave 10-minute oral presentations in which we had to present the findings of any peer-reviewed, published study. I presented the Maiacetus inuus paper to my class and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was so much fun to take something that I find fascinating and teach people about it. I was actually disappointed when, at the end of the presentation, nobody had any questions!

We've also started doing our winter bird studies. It's the first lab assignment I've had where I get to design my own study; of course, there are some limitations. I've been recording the various species of birds that visit two feeder types: feed and suet feeders. So, I've spent at least six hours in the last two weeks in the field, studying the feeding habits of birds, and I have pretty much fallen in love with birdwatching. I bought myself a pair of binoculars (10X50) and an I.D. book for Eastern birds and every sunny day, I try to squeeze in a bit of time in the woods. There's something about being outside, with no noise other than bird songs (which I'm starting to recognize!), in the sun, just watching. And I love the challenge of trying to add to the list of species that I've seen. There's one species, in particular, that I have never seen, but have heard, that I'm dying to identify. I thought it was a cardinal...but it isn't.

I'm hoping there's someone at the university who studies birds, because I'd love to hop on board with some research.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Seasonal Stuff

This time of year is really hard. It's been dark out for months and the weather is doing it's usual thing - the thing where it gets warm, but summer is still months away, the sun is MIA and mud season is looming.

I am sure that I get seasonal depression. The last week or so, I've really been feeling it - I feel flat, unmotivated, disinterested and generally miserable. When I feel that way, I stop thinking that school is a good idea because I lose perspective. I have a hard time doing stuff that isn't mandatory (like the reading assignments that probably are the reason I do well in my classes). Generally, I just don't see the point of working so hard - because I have already decided I'm going to fail.

This week, I've just soldiered on. I've done stuff I really didn't want to do, like outline the chapters we're reading in my Mineralogy textbook (instead of just reading them) and spent extra time in the geology lab with thin sections and the microscope. I've cooked dinner instead of just ordering take-out, even though I just wanted to get in bed. I've done my best to be kind to the people around me - the construction worker that's been drilling outside my office all week and the coworker who finds a problem with everything - even if I've just felt like being a huge jerk.

Last year, this time, I was pretty depressed. Then one day J and I were walking with some friends by the lake and while the sun was setting, some ducks flew over the water and for some reason, I just felt better. Something about how gracefully the ducks glided just inches from the surface made me so happy - it reminded me of all of the amazing things I have around me. That experience, and a cardinal that began singing outside of our front door ushered in a new season and I experience a little bit of a rebirth, as I do after every winter.

This morning, J sent me a sweet message that gave me just the little boost I needed to have a positive outlook. I don't feel quite as terrible and some part of me is actually hopeful. Later today, I have a date with some birds. As part of a study I'm conducting (for a lab assignment - this is not research) I have to go sit for an hour in the woods and observe birds at three sets of bird feeders. It's not that warm out today, but it's sunny and I think that my time outside will be another boost.

I am a big advocate of taking care of myself. I don't like to rely on other people to make me feel okay and I don't think that it's healthy to do; however, some days I just don't have what it takes to pull myself out of a funk. It's those days that I'll take all the help I can get.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Battlestar Gallactica Grinds to a Halt

(do not read this if you haven't seen the last episode of BSG...it will ruin things for you)

Okay, Will, here it is: I confess - I was not all that happy with BSG's ending.

First, let me just say that at the beginning of the last 3-part episode I was like, "okay...that's more like it!" and by the second part I was like, "Sweet! I've missed you, Battlestar Gallactica."
The last episode had some awesome BSG drama and it truly matched the tone of the rest of the series - in most parts. There were a couple of times that I turned to Jordan and we groaned because something horribly cheesy happened (like when Baltar and Caprica were talking in unison because they could both see the angels), but for the most part, we were pretty into it. I loved that they brought back all the prophecy stuff - that was something they just left out in the last season and it was the backbone of the show.

But the last part of the 3-part episode? Meh. I'm sick of the "robots will take over the Earth if we let the crazy scientists do what they want" theme. We did that in I Robot and a billion other movies. And Hera as Mitochondrial Eve? I don't know...seems like a bit of a stretch. I mean, if there was already a tribe of advanced hominids on earth that, according to Baltar, we could breed with, why would Hera be Eve?

Really, I was so turned off by the Baltar/Caprica team of angels. They just seemed so, er, not real - so not in sync with the rest of the show. And the montage at the end of all of the robots? Ugh.

I did like what they did with Kara - how she brought them to Earth by typing in a code that corresponded with the song that her father taught her as a child. That was neat and it was right in line with the series - a bit of prophecy and a bit of mystery. She needed to do something cool, because they basically turned Kara into a washout by the last episode.

Basically, I think that Moore had a great idea and he developed some AWESOME characters and the middle of the series was SO AMAZING. But he didn't know where he was going with anything. You can tell. The show was just floundering at the end. It probably would have worked out better if the show had gotten cancelled before the final season. Not that I would have been happy about that, either, but I would have been left thinking that BSG had one of the most ineresting plots, ever.

A lot of people are saying, "how could they ended it any other way?" and I think there are plenty of ways that BSG could have ended that wouldn't have turned it into a fable. Do we really need to drill it down the audience's throat that technology could overcome the human race? No! The whole show was based on that! We get it! We started drawing parallels between the Caprican-Cylon relationship and the Human-Technology relationship as soon as the show started. For heaven's sake - your viewers are not idiots!

It could have ended at Earth. It could have ended at the scene with Adama sitting by Roslin's grave and that would have been awesome (though nothing could have redeemed the last disgrace that was the last season). In fact, I thought it was ending then and I was pretty happy with it.

But then Baltar/Caprica angels fake conversation that really was a lecture to the audience happened and I lost the warm fuzzy feeling I had.

BSG is over and it didn't go out kicking and screaming - it just sorta ground to a halt.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm going on a tropical vacation!!!

In early May, J and I are going to Fort Lauderdale to visit his mom, relax and unwind a bit after a difficult and long semester. We're leaving on the last day of finals, in the evening, so it'll truly be a "finish and run away" sort of thing.

J's mom surprised us last week with some news: she's going to take us to Sanibel for three nights! I've never been on the Gulf coast - nor have I ever been to an island with white sandy beaches - but I am really really excited! I hear there are some really beautiful bike trails and lots of beautiful birds and shells.

On top of going to a gorgeous island, we're also staying in a gorgeous condo with king-size beds and a patio that overlooks the ocean:

I am REALLY excited. So much so that I want the next month and a half to fly by. I'm sure it will...but right now, it just doesn't seem to be going fast enough!

An easy grader?

I did just fine on that mineralogy midterm. In fact, with the extra-credit points I racked up in the beginning of the semester, I got over 100% on the exam. So, I spent a week and a half being a miserable jerk for no good reason.

It happens.

I think that I studied too hard for the exam, which barely scratched the surface of the details in our textbook. In class, we just sorta skimmed over ideas - not going into detail - but our reading was pretty in-depth. Having no idea what to expect or, better yet, what was expected of me, I just studied everything in a ton of detail.

The exam was very long - but it required very broad answers. I spent too much time answering the first 10 questions (in as much detail as I thought was expected) and then panicked when I realized that I still had half an exam to complete within 10 minutes. So, I rushed through the last half of the exam, spending very little time and attention on the details. I did just as fine on those questions as I did on the first few.

Lesson: For the final, I should really try to give broader, less specific answers. I could study less, too, but what would be the point of that?

Monday, March 16, 2009


It's been sunny out for, like, two whole days! And warm! So, in the spirit of Spring, I've decided to apply for a community garden plot. If I get the plot I want, it will be just a two minute bike ride from my house and all summer, I can eat fresh veggies!

I haven't decided just what I'm going to plant, though certainly I will have lettuce and tomatoes and peppers. I'd like to grow beans, too...

The plot is only going to be about 350 square feet, but I think it'll be more than enough - especially since I've never done this before and don't really know how it'll work out. It only cost 37$ and two volunteer days, so it won't be a big loss if it doesn't work out.

I love gardening - I worked in greenhouses and for landscaping companies for years. Best jobs I've ever had.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dear Battlestar Gallactica writers,

WTF are you doing??? You left us all at the end of season 4.0 with so many questions...promising us exciting answers and another fantastic season.

And season 4.5 SUCKS. It's terrible.

What was with that entire soap-opera-ish episode in which you decided to tell everything all at once? And why is there so much romantic drama? The last couple of episodes have made me want to take a nap.

Please, please, please stop this crap and bring back your old writing style. And while you're at it, whip the actors into shape, too.

Monday, March 9, 2009

If you want to laugh until you cry...

go see Louis C.K. live. J and I went on Saturday night and I laughed the whole time. It was one of the best shows I have ever seen in my entire life. Funny, brilliant, honest and true.

Well worth the 25$.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


It's officially "mid-term" and while for most people that means TONS of work, I'm looking at a fairly light load. I have a chapter or two to read and a lab report to start on. And I have to prepare a presentation on my choice of journal article (I'm doing Maiacetus because it's cool and will allow me to talk about paleo AND sexual selection).

I took my mineralogy midterm yesterday and it was really awful. I didn't answer a good chunk of the questions and didn't do very well, despite all of my hard work. I know that working really hard doesn't guarantee success in college - but I feel like I knew the answers to the test questions and just didn't have time to answer them, not because I had to think for a really long time before writing down my answers - but because the test itself was REALLY long. There were about 30, multi-part questions, half of which were essay-type questions that asked really really broad things - like what happens to light as it goes through a petrographic microscope and thin section?. Um...lots of things...

We had 50 minutes to complete the exam. I did as much as I could in the 50-minute allotted time and then handed in my unfinished exam because I had to run to my next class. People who didn't have a class right after got to stay a little late and finish up - something I'm pretty upset about.

I don't know how the grading will go. Perhaps the test was designed to be unfinishable and there will be a considerable curve. Or, I'll get a D on something worth 20% of my grade.