Monday, December 22, 2008

Train Adventure Post 3: December 22, 2008 [1:35pm]

I am sitting in the Midway Airport. When my train pulled in after 10:00pm last night (nearly 24 hours after leaving Denver), I had clearly missed my D.C. train, which left at 7:05pm from Chicago. They wouldn’t even let me go to New Orleans; New Orleans sounds closer than Chicago, and like a better city in which to be stranded. I’m stuck in Chicago without a coat. So Amtrak decides to put me up in a hotel, give me cash for cab fare and food, and re-book me on the 7:05pm train to D.C. the next day. I can’t seem to figure out why Amtrak isn’t making money. Dozens of other disillusioned train riders and myself congregate in The Chicago Inn lobby, only to find that their bar is closed. What kind of hotel is this? When drinking’s not an option, I might as well sleep.

Come morning my phone ringing wakes me up; right on cue, my mother is looking for options to get me home. With my current ticket, I get home the morning of the 24th, rather than the 23rd. Normally this wouldn’t be THAT much of a problem, but I’m supposed to be hosting a part at my house on the night of the 23rd. Seems kinda awkward if I’m not there. As it turns out, one-way tickets from Midway this afternoon are quite cheap. While I’m trying to decide if I would feel like a pampered, wussy, sell-out if I fly the rest of the way home, another call comes through on my cell phone. Berkeley Physicist is calling to see what happened to the rest of my trip. [At this point I should note that he’s not actually an overboard stalker, we actually exchanged contact information after bonding over bitching about grad school, advisors, research projects, and funding situations.] As it turns out, his train to New York is running 6 hours late already. Decision made. Book me, mamma!

Not knowing what the day will hold, I begin my tour of the city. First stop Union Station. In Denver I had checked my main luggage through to Atlanta – time to find out where my clothes are. As it turns out, they’re in the station and will be waiting for me at baggage claim. What helpful people. Then I ask about a ticket refund. They’d be happy to fully refund the last two legs of my ticket. Really, why ISN’T Amtrak making money? I was comforted to find out that the majority of the other people in line around me had worse stories than I did – at least my trip (to this point, and I’m probably jinxing myself here) didn’t involve one or more busses. With luggage in tow, I hop a cab to Midway.

Upon arriving at Midway, I am firm in my belief that riding in cabs in Chicago is by far the most dangerous thing I have ever done. One cab actually tried to drive away when I was only half way out of the cab – I have the bruise to prove it. After tipping well in homage to my arrival anywhere not in an ambulance, I check in for my flight. In my search for coffee to ward off my caffeine headache, I run into another paleontologist – what a small world. As it turns out, his travel plans are proceeding just as he had planned them; I’m in awe. After an enjoyable few hours of conversation to mask our internal struggles to remember if we’re friends on Facebook, its time to part ways as his flight is boarding. I return to my gate to face my next adventure.

Train Adventure Post 2: December 21, 2008 [4:20pm]

After hearing an announcement over the speakers that we had stopped during the night for a broken rail and were running even further behind schedule, I figured I had slept – I have no memory of stopping. At 8am Central Time, less than 10 hours after leaving Denver, we are running 3.5 hours late – my layover in Chicago is only 3 hours. Awesome. My seat neighbor turned out to be a morning chatter and wanted to know all about my night’s sleep and how I was feeling. She at least seemed to be in a good enough mood to indicate that I didn’t snore in her ear all night, so that was a relief. I went to search for coffee and ended up in the dining car having a seated breakfast. This was not my intention, but was pleasantly surprised to find that they served grits. Of course, I guess it’s not THAT unexpected to have a corn product in Nebraska.

I didn’t hang out with the puppies in the morning, but I did run across them on occasion as they strayed from car to car. The one thing I did notice is that the puppy called Flowers found a gal-pal. Another chick in the Denver station was sitting in our area and was chatting with us as we waited for our train. I think she re-charged her phone three times while we were waiting. I’m just going to say that I called it last night in the lounge car, because this morning as I was making my way back to my car from breakfast, Flowers and Safeway Chick (she works at Safeway) were cuddled up in neighboring seats. However, according to Microwave, they did not make use of the larger changing room/bathroom on the lower level of the car.

Writing this in retrospect after knowing that I’m going miss my connection in Chicago, I will say that the ONE cool thing about the train is the ability to meet different people. Other than the puppies I met in the Denver station, I have met a variety of other travelers including a Boulder family (sadly the youngest son had left his suitcase of stuffed animals at home), a physicist researching at Berkeley, a person “in trade” from the Bay Area whom it took me half of lunch to figure out if he was male or female, a couple from the Denver area in which the boyfriend is getting a degree in earth sciences, and a few international students with whom I would love to vent about the fall of the American rail system. And I must say that I was quite proud to be able to identify Ohio on a US map – I’m not sure I would have been able to do this 3 months ago – but with the states color-coded and Cleveland staring me in the face, I succeeded!

And now, for the sake of my sanity, I think I need to stop writing before this turns into a bitchfest, as we sit stopped on the tracks, 5 hours behind schedule, behind a freight train, with rail work ahead (metal contracts when its cold? no shit?). I’m going to now continue watching Mamma Mia! with the hopes that Pierce Brosnan singing will make me giggle.

Train Adventure Post 1: December 20, 2008 [11:46pm]

So I had been warned that trains never run on time; and apparently these people who warned me didn’t lie. Have a cookie. My train was supposed to leave at 8:10pm; two hours later, I was still in Denver’s Union Station. At first I found this highly annoying, but then I started interacting with the people around me. Most notable were three guys I started talking to (and with whom I am now sitting with in the lounge car on the train) – I believe their names are Flowers, T-bone, and Microwave. Or at least something very close. They go to Wyoming Tech, a school I was not aware existed, and seem to want nothing more than to pretend they’re cowboys while admitting that they’re not cowboys. They’re from Illinois and ride lawnmowers. I must admit is was very odd to hang out with an 18, 19, and 20 year old, considering I spend most of my time at school making fun of undergrads. They definitely lived up to my expectations in terms of their attempts at dirty jokes, texting everyone in their cell phones, and fantasizing about beer. Resultantly, the first thing I did when I got on the train was to buy a beer for myself and drink it very slowly and enjoyable in front of them. I then allowed Microwave to drink my backwash. But they were cute little puppies.

One would think that boarding a train would be a boring process; this is true, up to the point that security is called to handle a belligerent passenger. I am proud to say that this passenger was not I. There was one noteworthy guy in a camo hat who was making the rounds in the Denver train station. He was odiferously drunk and rumor had it he had been there for two days. Everyone knew him by the time our train arrived. After causing a minor skirmish on the platform, Camo Hat settled down, only to be replaced by a large belligerent asshole, whom it was hard to identify as drunk or not – it could have gone either way. He would be unsubtly obnoxious and mouthy and then reply to every security confrontation with “No Comment” and “Do you know what ‘No Comment’ means”. After talking to security for 10 minutes with his crying wife, they let him on the train. So much for security.

In true form, immediately upon finding my seat, I parked my bags and then headed for the bar car. I managed to pick up the puppies along the way, as they were seated in a different car. We got to the snack car and found the bar was closing, but I sweet-talked a disgruntled Amtrak employee into opening the cooler for me so I could pay $4.50 for a Bud Light. At least I didn’t have to tap the Rockies. While suffering teenage sad faces as I cracked open my beer, I took much delight in making fun of the puppies for not noticing that Mr. Disgruntled Amtrak Employee failed to card me. Silly undergrads! Conversation progressed from comparing ring tones, to me teaching them what “binomial nomenclature” means and the difference between pterosaurs and dinosaurs, to them showing me how they painted their cell phones different colors in “Automotive detailing and finishing” class. Apparently I picked the wrong major. By midnight, I was no longer being entertained, and decided to go harass the person in the seat next to me for a few hours. I stretched out with my dinosaur pillow and Harry Potter blanket and thought I would never get to sleep.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Glorious Melding of Culture and Science

In my opinion, only the South has perfected the art of combining natural history, American history, and tourist traps into a glorious, enriching entanglement that warms my heart. Just check out places like Pigeon Forge, Rock City, Stone Mountain (also doubling as one of the largest granite outcrops), and Williamsburg’s Bush Gardens if you’re prepared to be dazzled. The Midwest may have a ball of twine and a corn palace, but lacks the battlefields and topography-related beauty that can be offered by the South. As a state rich in American history, Virginia has unabashedly embraced this glorious Southern tradition. In central Virginia there is a hidden jewel (unless you were lucky enough to go to school 13 miles away) known as Natural Bridge. Natural Bridge plays host to many natural wonders such as the namesake rock bridge (there actually used to be a road that ran on top of it…until the Balrog got out of hand), and the Natural Bridge zoo (trying hard to recreate the natural habitats of its inhabitants). And in this world of natural beauty, my two favorite subjects embrace in a truly inspired merging of science and culture: dinosaurs and The War of Northern Aggression. In Dinosaur Kingdom (part of the Natural Bridge attractions), dinosaurs are waging war on tyrant Yankee soldiers, thus completing my soul.

Here’s the set up: “It's 1863 and Union soldiers have discovered a hidden valley filled with dinosaurs. Now the Yankees plan to use the dinos as weapons of mass destruction against the South.” Dinosaurs aren't just eating people, they're eating Yankees. Nothing likes to be used and have their state’s rights taken away.

Through Dinosaur Kingdom, dinosaurs can be seen plucking and eating Union soldier from horses, attacking Union soldiers in the outhouse, exacting revenge for a stolen egg (did those silly Yankees not see Jurassic Park III??), being ineffectively lassoed, and generally kicking the asses of the attempting Northern oppressors. All creationists should visit this park for a first-hand depiction of why human and dinosaurs never could have lived together – either dinosaurs would have driven human extinction, or the South would have won The War. As so aptly and insightfully put it: “Dinosaur Kingdom is a twist on the biblical Creationist view that people and dinosaurs lived together. Here, people live with dinosaurs -- but only until the dinosaurs eat them.” I am dinosaur hear me whistle Dixie.

And for the record, I never doubted which side dinosaurs would have been on.

For more information:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Correlation, Causation, and Circularity

I have noticed two main trends in my life since starting grad school: drinking and debt. Data shows that these two factors are trending in the same direction with time (see Graph), leading to the question of whether this is causation or mere correlation of trends. The first point of significance is that both plots are trending in the positive direction with respect to time, meaning that my amount of debt and alcohol intake are both at all time highs this very instant. I lift my glass to that. The second point of significance is that both drinking and debt values show decreases at the same points in time followed by roughly parallel spikes following the relative lows (Point A and B on the graph). Unfortunately the bin size of the plot is too large to detect whether a lag is apparent between an increase in drinking and an increase in debt. However, raw data indicate that the changes in total debt lags slightly behind changes in total alcohol consumption, indicating causality. Multiple factors such as deadlines for conference presentations, preparation for comprehensive exams, chapters of your dissertation due to your advisor, grant applications, and hospital stints for nervous breakdowns can lead to brief declines in alcohol consumption, resulting in fewer happy hour expenditures. And, following the physical laws of the Universe, these brief "dry spells" are always followed by extreme drinking and debt spikes, like fern spores in the rock record after a mass extinction.

Preliminary analysis of data leads to the conclusion that drinking is not only positively correlated with debt, but that drinking is a significant factor causing debt. Of course, this leads to a circular relationship between drinking and debt, with grad school as the true cause of all. Grad school lead to drinking (no explanation needed), drinking leads to debt, debt leads to more drinking, and drinking leads to not finishing grad school, which leads to more drinking and debt (see Diagram). This just adds another dimension to the grad school, drinking, debt paradigm that rules my life; and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I'm not the only one slaving under this universal paradigm.

And so here is another night I didn't spend working on my dissertation - guess I'll just finish this bottle and take another semester to finish to my degree. With friends like Jack Daniels, who needs a Ph.D. and bank account in the black?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Literacy is a burden

You know, when I was a kid no one asked me if I wanted to learn how to read - they just forced it upon me without so much of an "as you please". And that's just crap. Do we really live in a country where 5 year olds (yeah, I don't know how old kids are when they learn to read) do not have the right to decide whether or not they want to becomes literate? We get voter pamphlets, TV and radio ads, phone calls, and political platforms shoved in our faces every day listing out the pros and cons of each square on the ballot, but no one lays out the pros and cons of literacy to children.

But kids, I want to be the first to tell you that reading is not all its cracked up to be. The number one drawback is this: WHEN YOU'RE LITERATE, PEOPLE EXPECT YOU TO READ. How is that fair?

All of a sudden you're bombarded with reading lists, standardized tests, book reports, essays, biographies, poetry, and other forms of coma-inducing boredom. And, when you're stupid enough to hang around academia, you're assigned the worse thing imaginable: journal articles. And again, you're expected to read them, remember them, and cite them when appropriate. Oral traditions worked well for centuries and millennia, what was so bad about that?

And what's just a slap in the face is when you do find a book that you want to read, you don't have time to read it. Or, its been so long since you've read anything entertaining, you get absolutely obsessed and can't function until you finish the book. Then, you realize that the book is part of a series, and that you don't have time to read anymore books in the series until the spring.

I should have been a goat herder.

But, on the pro side, here's something pretty awesome about being literate:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Losing the Will to Live

With the impending doom of giving a presentation lacking things like data to a conference of professionals, I have been given a reason to contemplate my philosophy on life.... Or rather, near death by serious injury/illness. I am so obviously frantic about this talk, I'm blogging. That's gotta say something....

On my way into the grocery store last week, I realized that if I got hit by a car, I would have a good chance of getting out of giving my talk. Upon crossing from the parking lot to the store front, I noticed an SUV heading my way - what a perfect opportunity! But, alas, they stopped at the stop sign. Damn you, Boulder and your pedestrian-friendly drivers!

Upon expressing my desires though several different mediums (i.e., Facebook), there was an outcry of support to help me fulfill my fantasies of getting taken out. I feel so loved. My one stipulation is to please run over my right side ; I feel the need to even things out and that having metal in only my left leg throws me off balance. And if we could make a stop by McGuckin's on the way to the hospital to pick up some screws and metal plates, I would appreciate the thousands of dollars that would save. (Though I did get a check for $17 yesterday from the hospital for overcharging me at some point. Thanks guys! I hope you appreciated that other $10,000!)

I have also considered giving myself extreme food poisoning - can't move from the floor, commode-hugging food poisoning. No one wants someone who could potentially vomit at any second on stage constantly opening her mouth. I have had offers of help with this tactic, as well. And, honestly, by the way the several day old sandwich I just ate tasted, this may actually work out. We'll see how the next few hours pan out.

But it now appears that I have moved into the apathetic stage of panic/stress/exhaustion where I don't give a crap. This, I can handle.

Monday, August 25, 2008

When Squirrels Attack

There I was, walking out of my condo complex minding my own business. I had put in my earphones for my journey to campus and was engrossed in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 16 - In the Hog's Head (wistful sigh). When all of a sudden...THUD! (Unfortunately it wasn't a splat.) Out of no where a squirrel fell right in front of me, bushing my left shoulder and foot and causing me to veer off my path or really make it go splat. Scared the bejeezers out of me and may have caused me to shriek like a little girl - when I looked over at the intersection next to me, there were definitely drivers looking at me. But I don't care, I think I was justified. Its not every day that a squirrel falls off a tree and hits you as your walking towards the bus. In fact, I think this puts me up there with the animal bombarded elite. I had a friend in college who was walking out of the dorms one day when a pigeon died in a tree, fell, and hit her. I was quite jealous of her good luck, for I had never been more than shit on by a bird. But now...I've made the big time!

Now being attacked by an uncoordinated squirrel made me think. How can we use this to our advantage? I immediately thought of the scene in Ernest Goes to Camp where Ernest and the campers try to save Kamp Kikakee from land developers. One of the offensive moves they use is catapulting turtle paratroopers on the work crew (check out for awesome footage). I suggest a similar technique for the Middle East - catapulting rabid squirrels without parachutes. Who knows what would happen...maybe they'd even become invasive species...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Holy Irish Drunkeness Batman!

So, I'm sitting in a bar at 4:20pm (tehehe) and have been here for a few hours. Hey, they have free wifi, don't judge! But after getting rained in and being forced to order another drink, things are finally starting to get good. There's a drunk (or, slightly arguably not drunk) guy on the other side of the bar from me talking loudly enough for me to hear everything as I sit and listen to him in my back corner. This is alluvial fantastic!! So far, here is what I've learned:

Colorado has more solar panels than anywhere else because we're closer to the sun. And as my friend says "Yes, that's why the Himalayas are covered with solar panels."

You have to be careful hiking in Colorado with kids because of Mountain Lions. Its like Baltimore with car-jackers.

He has no self control when it come to whiskey and large women.

We're in an energy crisis. We need to find alternate means of energy, or more viable nukes. The French, however, can have a 35 hour work week because they have good energy. Does that mean that they harness their chi?

Nuns beat you when you don't finish your Shepard's pie.

Not getting laid makes you look like a wiener.

He's living in a hotel.

He doesn't know what a bike lane is - apparently he was driving in it and didn't understand what the picture of the biker meant...

He watches TV like a jackass.

Guinness and Murphy's are both Irish beers, but Murphy's is brewed by protestants.

And now a group of stupid chits have moved to table between me and the whiskey guy. I'm getting stupider listening to these dumb broads...

Sweet, the chicks have left and I am free to lean new pearls of wisdom to help get me through the trials and tribulations of life. And then pass them on to you...

If you want to learn about the sea, read Moby Dick. Herman Melville. The Whale ship was his Harvard and his Yale.

There was some poetry about two girls from Sturgis…. Unfortunately I didn’t catch it all.

As a young man he learned (1) Never trust a woman as a sailor and (2) Death is closer than you think. Its not a story…it’s a memoir…a metallic Great White…

I'm sorry to have to inform you, but this guy has procreated. The future of humanity is lost. Give up now.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Vote for Guac!

I'm a slut for guacamole - I just love the stuff. And I just don't think its right to charge an extra $0.50, $1.00, or even in some extreme cases $1.50 for guacamole. It should come standard; you don't buy a new car and then have to pay extra for a carburetor. I refuse to think of guacamole as the chrome rims of Mexican food. Its just unAmerican to charge extra. Even if is Mexican food, I'm sure some of the avocados come from California. I don't see how this behavior hasn't caused another Red Scare.

So, in all these days of election hype, declaring platforms, choosing running mates, and wooing voters, I propose an easy way to decide. "Vote for Me and the Guac is free". I'd vote for that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Spanish Channel(s)

I need to learn Spanish. I would say re-learn Spanish since I took three years of it in high school, but upon doing so poorly on my college language entrance exam they told me pick a new language, I am now convinced I never knew Spanish to begin with. Anywho, I need to learn Spanish. Out of the few cable channels I get (coming out to like $5 a channel...frickin' Comcast), about half of them are Spanish, and they look WAY cooler than the channels I can understand. They have awesome costumes, crazy drama, tears, bitch-slapping, bright colors, flamenco dancing, huge breasts, cod pieces, and "Me and Julio Down in the School Yard" playing in the background. English-speaking shows have drab colors and no dancing except in a reality TV way, which doesn't count as TV regardless of the language. Obviously I need to make a good latina friend so I can get a brightly colored bridesmaid dress. Maybe something with ruffles. That's great for latino dancing, which my good latina friend will teach me. Sorry, I digress, shocking.

Honestly, American TV just really can't compete with this genus. Three of the four men in this picture aren't wearing shirts, and there is only one women that they use twice; and you know she's going to get ravaged by at least one of the shirtless men. "Oh Felipe, I want you to ravish me in the apple orchard among the young ripe fruit of the trees."

And in case you need more:

Man, they have pirates - I can't even begin to express my envy. Why the hell don't we have TV shows about pirates? So not fair.

And they have a lot of soccer...or football (or futbol with a little accent thingy) as the locals call it. And I do love me some Pele.

Actually, I wonder if learning Spanish will take away from the magic of watching Univision and making up my own dialog....

Monday, June 9, 2008

Undergrad Crowd Control

Making fun of undergraduates on the University of Colorado campus is one of my favorite pass times. It's really not that hard as they make easy targets, rather like mullet-spotting in a Appalachian Walmart. The way they dress is what amuses me the most - the ridiculous heels, the furry boots with bouncing tassels, the climate-inappropriate outfits of miniskirts, halter tops and Uggs. The emo guys are amusing, but I derive much more entertainment from the females. Endless entertainment. Granted its entertainment in a raging, ridiculing, loss of hope for the future of humanity kind of way, but its entertainment nonetheless.

I was in the field last week along the Colorado-Utah boarder. Its badlands, but its also cattle, sheep, and horse country. And this gave me a brilliant idea to control the undergraduate population - at least those that are a danger to the gene pool. Cattle guards. With strategically placed cattle guards along the campus sidewalks, we could control the herd. Similar to how cows won't cross a cattle guard because of the widely spaced metal bars, girls won't cross because of the stilettos they feel the need to wear to class. This will take care of the summer problem. As for winter (or those climate-inappropriate days), I suggest releasing horny marmots which will naturally be attracted to the furry boots.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

I just can't help myself:

Scary, eh?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Coming Attraction

Not that I think anyone really reads this blog, but I wanted to let the Internet (whom I have named Alvin) know I will post something again one day. Maybe in the near future, maybe not. You never know when I'm going to strike; that's the way I roll. In the mean time, I'll leave you (being Alvin) with the image that now graces my computer background. It explains so much.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Talking in code

One of my friends said the other day, "Sometimes is sounds like you're talking in code." I laughed, and then I thought about it. By now we all know that me thinking leads to me blogging. What can I say, I'm a savant. Anyways, science is all about jargon; paleo is right up there with the worst - we have anatomical terms, taxonomic names, evolutionary terms, sedimentologic terms, and words made up in fits of arm waving. Dinoturbation. Bring it.

To help out my friend, I've decided to give an insight into the language of paleo so that she can feel more enlightened and less like the art major that she is. Snippets from a typical conversation:

Comment: "I thought you were in China."
Translation: "How're your bitches and hos? I didn't know you were going International."

Comment: "I think we have a new species out of Fort Peck."
Translation: "We've got a good batch, meet me out back at the still at midnight"

Comment: "He didn't please the bishop. They buried him in an old Jesuit Cemetery in Connecticut."
Translation: "I don't think we're going to get a good crop of tomatoes out of the garden this summer. We need more cow shit."

Comment: "When you've got someone who can pay for it, you might as well do it."
...Yeah, that's not code...

Comment: "Don't forget how to use chopsticks"
Translation: "Tell your mom she was awesome last night."

See, we're all easy going, well mannered, thoughtful, and insightful people. Sometimes you just have to look through the rough exterior.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Random Connections

Its amazing how quickly conversations can evolve and take you down new youtube avenues. Yesterday I took an eventful conversation path from burritos to George Foreman to that sad early-1990s cotton commercial. It went down in a manner akin to this:

I had a burrito for lunch. Yeah, it was yummy. Since I believe burritos are the reason that humans have not caused their own extinction through nuclear warfare, I also believe that a bad burrito would have the same effect as a manipulative warlord. But this one was good, so I won't be attacking any countries, states, provinces, municipalities, orphanages, etc. But nothing is as good a La Parrilla in Bozeman. The Chicken Santa Fe Wrap....mmm....that's what peace negotiations are made of. I love La Parrilla so much I would not only name my first born La Parrilla, I would name ALL of my children La Parrilla.

Just like George Foreman. He has 11 children - 6 boys and 5 girls. All six boys are named George. Except I wouldn't give my children suffixes or discriminate based on gender, they'd all be La Parrilla and would have to duke it out between themselves. Additionally, George does not have a daughter named Georgia. Or Georgia Peach

Georgia makes everyone think of Georgia Peaches. We even have a damned peach on our quarter. Its crap. It infuriates me. Yes, Georgia peaches are delicious, so are South Carolina Peaches, as long as its from the South, its pretty darn good. In fact, the water tower that looks like a peach isn't even in Georgia, its in Gaffney, South Carolina. People then next associate Georgia with peanuts, I blame Jimmy Carter for this. Georgia's top agricultural money-maker is actually with Broilers (9-12 week old chickens). Peaches is #17 on the list, peanuts at least come in at a somewhat respectable #5. BUT, Georgia's largest cash crop (not including poultry/livestock) is cotton. I've known this for years, but the rest of the country is in denial because of the negative associations of cotton with slavery. I don't think we can really blame slavery on cotton. Why is it ok to wear it, but not put it on a quarter?

Do you remember that really sad cotton commercial from the early 1990's? There's a mother and a daughter sitting in a partially empty house packing boxes. The little girl asks her mother why they have to move; and the mother replies that because people don't buy American cotton products any more, her daddy had to be laid off and they now have to move so he can find a new job. Because people weren't buying American cotton. Americans are killing the American dream by not buying American cotton. Now little Susie has to move. We're all horrible people, emphasized by the playing of "The touch, the feel of cotton. The fabric of our lives." Tears unbidden. American propaganda at its best.

I then spent lots of quality time on youtube looking for the commercial. Alas, I could not find it. So, either for the first time in my experience youtube has failed me, or I was distracted by a shiny object before I stumbled upon the video. But I did watch The Mysterious Ticking Noise. Brilliant.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I quit

Grad school, man. This shit just ain't worth it. I'm formally announcing my withdrawl from an endlessly stressful, penniless, and thankless career in academia to move on to greener, and more lucrative, pastures. Some of you may have seen this coming, and its true, I'm going into ostrich racing. There are many potential barriers toward my immediate immersion into the world of ostrich racing in terms of what type of racing, how do I saddle an ostrich, where am I going to get an ostrich, etc. Don't think that this is an idea that has just come to me on a burn-out induced whim....

(1) Where am I going to get an ostrich: Africa. Duh. While ratites are found on all of the Gondwanan continents, ostrichs today are only found on the continent of Africa. There is only one extant family: Struthionidae, and only one extant genus: Struthio. I guess I'll take one of those. Ostrich fossils can be found in central Europe and Asia from the Eocene to the Pleistocene, but I don't think I'll win too many races riding fossil bones [insert dirty old man joke here].

(2) What kind of racing: Yes please!

(3) Does this conflict with my Southern lady-like upbringing:
The data speaks for itself. What Southern Matron wouldn't approve?

(4) Saddles: I've been working on a modification of an Australian endurance racing saddle used on horses for ostrich racing. It may work in the end, but being the puritan that I am, I think the true thrills and pleasure of being astride an ostrich [insert cloaca joke here] comes from bareback riding [and another]. With my knees wedged under their rudimentary wings and grasping the anterior portion of the wing near the shoulder joint, I should be able to successfully remain astride. Of course the key is to not wear silk. The puritan in me is constantly in disequilibrium with my inner non-conformist, but I think a riding habit made of material with a high coefficient of roughness is appropriate [insert Manning's N joke here]. You guessed it, I'm thinking a shark skin riding habit. The orientation of the denticles should be perfect to prevent sliding off the back of the ostrich.

(5) Is there money in this: Where there is a way to gamble, there is a profit to be made. Additionally, I'll get to travel as Florida, South Africa, and the Czech Republic apparently have active ostrich racing followings.

But, while I'm learning the ropes and working on logistics, I'm setting up an underground ring as an ostrich racing bookie.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What I would do with a pouch...

Mammals : all that lactating and live birth stuff doesn't really do it for me. I guess monotremes are pretty cool since they're the non-conformists of the group and have remained a throw-back to our egg-laying peeps. So the next logical question is: what about marsupials? And that got me thinking...I would LOVE to have a pouch.

Just think of all the things I could do with a pouch. I would definitely keep snacks in there...and a cooler full of beer. I wonder if I could insulate it to keep it cool rather than warm, then my pouch would just be a cooler. I'd be like Duff Man (oh yeah!), but without the spandex and awkward belt. I'd keep the cape, though. If I had a pouch-cooler, I would deserve a cape.

Today I lost my keys. Ok, I didn't really lose them, I left them on the bench where I had lunch. But if they had not been on the bench, then I would have lost them. And if I had a pouch, that never would have happened. And thinking about getting mugged - I dare someone to try to stick their hand in my pouch and grab my wallet.

And if you're not convinced yet that a pouch would be awesome - if you had a pouch, you could always have water balloons on hand to throw at people. Then, say, someone tried to blame you for it...well you don't even have a bag in which you could have been hiding the balloons. Don't you thinks someone would have noticed if you'd been walking around with you hands full of water balloons? They must have made a mistake.

I would have made an awesome marsupial.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Holy March Madness Batman!

Yes, its March - normally an outrageously busy month (at least from an academic standpoint) and one spent being constantly teased by the weather. Here in Boulder, its sunny one day, snowing the next. Somebody please return Percephone to Demeter!

However, the light at the end of the tunnel is in the form of March Madness. Now, I don't like basketball and don't watch it during the rest of the year - in fact I don't think I'd ever seen a whole game until last year. I'm actually not saying that March Madness is a high point to portray the crappiness of the Month, but rather out of true excitement for the NCAA tournament. Any reason to get excited about sports is good for me. This is now my second year I've put in a bracket, and since I won my pool last year, I have high expectations of myself.

One may ask, how do you put together a bracket AND win when you don't follow basketball? Well, there are may ways to do this, and I assure you I'm not the first non-basketball person to win a bracket that includes some hardcore basketball followers. Diane from Cheers would chose teams based on team colors and mascots. On, Bill Simmons' wife picks based on multiple criteria from personal association with schools or states and what she overhears from Bill and others. In fact, everyone should check out

So I have one bracket in a pool this year. This bracket is built off of critera similar to the Sports Gal (see link above) with whether I like the school or not. I don't know what makes me like one school that I've never been to or known anyone who has gone there over another, but there is an inner stirring for one school over another anyways. And, yes, I do look at the team rankings if I really just don't know anything about the school's reputation in athletics. There is no research or prior basketball watching at all. And like I said, I won my pool last year with this method (yes, shameless self-promotion) - largely because I changed my champion from Georgetown to Florida at the last minute because I wanted an SEC team to win - I like the SEC, damnit. Unfortunately, because I won last year, I feel like I have a reputation to uphold and expectations. That's the shitty thing about doing well - people have expectations. Its the same way with tests in school - lets say you get a 96% on the first test...well shit. Both you and your professor have expectations of your performance on the next exam - if you don't get an A, you're just a disappointment. Giving a shit is a bitch. Starting now I don't believe in expectations, I think its a crap deal.

Anyways, I have been thinking on new ways to pick brackets for those who don't anything about the teams playing, and have come up with two solutions: Fighting and Eating. And honestly, fighting and eating have got to be the most important things in life - especially from an evolutionary biology point of view. What drives evolution? Eating and sex. You have to be able to FIGHT to EAT, and to FIGHT to MATE. There it is, natural selection and sexual selection in a nutshell.

Back to basketball. I'm setting up an experiment on the best "alternative" method for setting up a bracket: (1) personal associations and gut feelings about teams (2) which mascot would win in a fight and (3) which mascot would taste better. So I have three brackets filled out in each method.

Association and Instinct:

Who would win in a fight:

This one got tough when it came down to the Delta Devils versus the Blue Devils. I did want to pick Duke because they're ranked higher and likely a much better team, but "blue" makes me think sad, and Southerners can be tough, so I had to go with Mississippi Valley. But, honestly, I think a Badger could take on the devil.

Which is tastier:

It's really hard to pick between pig and cow to eat. But I'm thinking about Nachos with beef right now, so Texas is going to beat Arkansas.

And just for the record, teams with the mascots like "Big Red" and "Golden Flashes" and the "Hoyas" (which no one really knows what it is) should automatically be eliminated from the bracket.

Let March Madness Begin!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

If I were plankton: Ode to productivity

Plankton is a primary producer in marine (and lacustrine) environments. Plankton uses energy from the sun to metabolize O2 from CO2, not only serving the important yet often overlooked position as the bottom of the food chain dog-pile, but also sustaining an oxygen-rich atmosphere. High productivity in the oceans results from blooms of these primary producers that then stimulates a chain reaction of increased energy flow that cascades up the food chain. Bless the little buggers for all their hard work.

After plankton do their job making the atmosphere awesome, they die. Well, they spawn and then they die. When they die, their carcasses are eaten, dissolved, or sink to the bottom of the ocean (or lake) and get buried. The first option means that their death went to the nourishment of another organism that was hopefully either tasty or eaten by something tasty or eaten by something that was eaten by something tasty. The second option allows for the minerals that made up the planktonic organism to be transferred back into the nutrient cycle. Carbon from dead plankton, for example, can be dissolved back into the seawater as the organism sinks to the seafloor and decays. That carbon then reenters the carbon cycle to potentially be used by other organisms. Again, one can only hope that this feeds something tasty. Other organisms buried in the seafloor sediments can also utilize minerals and nutrients from planktonic remains that reach the ocean bottom.

If I were plankton, I would have been spawned, failed to ever photosynthesize, immediately die (without actually producing anything), sink to the seafloor without being eaten or dissolved, be deposited under anoxic conditions, immediately be buried by other sediment, and never even reenter the carbon cycle. Somehow this seems more pathetic than the plankton short bus…

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How does one become a trophy wife?

I have spent much time thinking on this "how does one become a trophy wife" question. For years I have been toting the "first marriage is for money, second marriage is for love" mantra, and so am always on the look out for rich old men. I have found that the man-luring techniques are going to change for both the age class and tax bracket you're aiming for, so there's no clear, easy answer.

There are three general classes of men who are looking for trophy wifes:

(1) For some men a significantly younger woman is all they need. Unfortunately these men can be hard to live with and put up with as they have very low expectations for themselves. They also fall along the tax bracket continuum, rather than being pooled at either the high or the low end of the wealth scale, so make sure you see their portfolio and bank statements before pre-nups are signed. These men are recommended for women with confidence issues and/or a dire and immediate financial situation; and as a warning, they can sometimes be scared off by strong personalities. However, if you're willing to go there, I suggest finding someone quite old with a pre-existing medical condition.

(2) On the other end of the spectrum, some men will take only outrageously young and ridiculous attractive women with a D-cup minimum. These guys are usually high-maintenance and aren't that desperately lonely because they have high expectations and know they can be filled. Because they fall in the top tier of rich old men, they have the financial security to be picky. Education level can be a limiting factor with these men. If you're in grad school, for example, one would assume you can at least read 3-syllable words, so these guys might not go for you. I'm not trying to be insulting to you and/or your physical appearance, but it's just not going to work based on your intelligence. They will fear your reading ability and the likelihood of you tricking them up somewhere in the pre-nup.

(3) The last general category of man are those just looking for a young, decently attractive companion and is willing to invest in a good personality. These men can be rather nice and doting as they don't have as high expectations, but can form respect. General observations indicate that these are often self-made men with a bit more respect for where they came from, but have developed a trophy-wife fetish over the decades from hanging out with men with trophy wife fetishes. Apparently its a communicable disease. However, these last men are usually pushing the bottom limits of the "trophy wife tax bracket".

(4) I know I said there were three general classes, but this class of man is not rich, he's the dirty old man. Many trophy wife hunters will be dirty old men, to be sure, but they are rich dirty old man. This is a huge distinction as many things in life are more tolerable with wealth. These men will disguise themselves in expensive suits (pay attention to their attire, because often they will rewear the same suit or two suites and just changes shirts and ties - a dead give-away), surround themselves by other rich men to whom they can be snobbish, and try to woo you with bank credit. This is why it is so important to get personal, visual confirmation of their financial assets before entering into any legal agreements. Just one of these men could lead to the down-fall of a perfectly acceptable future trophy wife.

So, its really going to depend on what you're looking for in an old man. As for me, I'm not really attractive enough to really be a trophy wife, so I figure I need to find a really old and visually impaired man - let me know if you can set me up with anyone, and I'll return the favor.

Monday, March 3, 2008

I need more tight pants in my life

It's March. What does this mean? No damned football. No college football for 2 months now. No pro football for one month now. No football for 5 more frickin' months. I'm dying already. Le pout.

I was in a bar, waiting for a friend to meet me for a few games of pool, and was getting teased on the T.V. by some soundless commentary on Ben Roethlisberger (and upon googling to figure out how to spell his name, I found that he just signed an 8-year contract with the Steelers). It hit me then and there how much I miss my legions of tight-pantsed men. Don't be fooled - those quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs don't spend hours a day in the gym because they enjoy it - they spent their time there because I enjoy it. I enjoy them in their tight, shiny pants. Football combines two of my favorite things: men and shiny objects. Actually three of my favorite things: men, shiny objects, and beer (which makes objects even shinier). This could go on and on, because I also love wings, nachos, sports bars, redheaded sluts.... But at this point in the doldrums of the year with no westerlies in sight, I'll take an offensive line man at this point. Maybe I'll start running again just so I can jog by the CU practice field and listen to the loud speakers calling out plays. I'm obviously desperate here.

On a side note: Shit. Pete just died.

And this bring me to my next revelation. I know its spring when I start watching Rudy because I miss the constant entertainment of football. Usually my Rudy fetish is confined to hungover Saturday morning movie watching escapades. So many times I would actually put in Shrek to watch as I dozed on the couch with my head pulsating in beat with my heart. But then the "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron" trailer would come on (yes, its a VCR, and fast-forwarding is too much effort), and it uses the theme to Rudy (guess Jerry Goldsmith needed the royalties). So, I would instantly pull Shrek out and put Rudy in. Pure contentment. But apparently I've moved on to Monday evening post-pool PBR-induced escapades. I like to think that this means I'm moving up in the world.

Basketball then came on at the bar. Speaking of doldrums, basketball is the albatross around my neck. West Virigina was playing someone, hell if I know whom, hell if I care. Typically I enjoy watching WVU play football, but basketball (any team, any level) just doesn't do it for me. I don't think even tight pants would change this for me. March Madness entertains me to some degree, especially when I put in a bracket and it does well. And the fact that Bill Simmon's live blog on is one of the highlights of my life. I highly recommend that you check it out. But otherwise - nahh. At least I guess I only have a month until baseball season. I do love peanuts....

But for now, I have to get back to my tight-pantsed men standing in for my tight-pantsed men. As if Rudy didn't kick ass enough, remember that he was not only a Goonie (and Goonies never say die), but he was Samwise Gamge, as well. And Sam's everything I've always wanted in a hobbit.

In conclusion, I would like to quote Pete quoting Pete's dad: "It's like my dad always said 'Having dreams is what makes life tolerable'. " May I dream of football...and shiny objects.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dork Implosion

I have recently been exploring the correlation of food web reorganization and behavioral changes across the Permian-Triassic boundary as a side project. I wanted to give yall the heads-up on my new publication that's coming out in The Journal of Wizarding Ecology entitled "Grindylows: from Paleozoic Pests to Modern Monsters". Here's a sneak peak!

So far my research shows that grindylow population spikes are positively correlated with dinoflagellate blooms. These bioluminescent blooms are caused by nutrient supersaturation that promotes dinoflagellate sexual reproduction. Grindlows feed off the dinoflagellates - they use their sets of small, sharp teeth for straining out the planktonic matter. They also feed off of fish, and the increase in marine fauna death associated with red tides is actually driven by grindylow feeding frenzies. Part of the warnings about the toxic dangers of red tides is artfully laid propaganda to help keep the International Statute of Secrecy and is regulated by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

However, the main quandary is the evolutionary history of the gridylowidae before the Triassic, when dinoflagellate cysts first enter the rock record. This is where the research gets interesting. The reigning paradigm insists that pre-Triassic (i.e. Paleozoic) gridylowidae taxa represent a ghost lineage - these organisms existed in the ocean, but were not preserved. Taphonomic biases have pointed towards the lack of reproductive cysts before the Triassic yet presence of the actual dinoflagellate organisms; the cysts are what are actually preserved in the rock record.

My hypothesis challenges this paradigm. While the claim that "absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" is a valid working hypothesis at this point, my research suggests that dinoflagellates did not evolve until the Early Triassic, and their absence in the Paleozoic rock record is a true signal of absence. Isotope and trace element geochemistry reveals no remnants of dinoflagellate biomolecules, cysts, or signs oceanic productivity.

Therefore, the Paleozoic to post-Paleozoic behavioral transition is correlated with a change in food web structure (e.g., a change in grindylow diet). The Permian-Triassic boundary does mark the largest extinction event known in Earth's history, where approximately 95% of life went extinct. Ecosystem reorganization would be mandatory for the survival of organisms across this extinction event. In accordance with my new hypothesis, the P-T extinction event drove a grindylow dietary change, which then drove a behavioral change. The opening of niches in post-extinction ecosystems spurred the evolution and radiation of dinoflagellates, which became one of the major dietary constituents of the grindylow diet.

The next questions that must be asked in accordance with this research are what grindylows were consuming before dinoflagellate evolution; and why this dietary shift escalated grindylow behavioral problems. Preliminary research suggests that chemical changes in the gridylow diet caused behavioral changes. A change from a silica-based diet to organisms with the chemical composition of dinoflagellates could account for behavioral discrepancies.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Commence Rambling

I'm not really sure why I've started a blog. Generally I make fun of people who blog (behind their backs of course), but this drastic and hypocritical turn of events must be correlated with the fact that I don't want to work on this lecture I'm giving on Friday. I mean, does anyone really care about turtles, crocodiles, and lepidosaurs? Well, if you do, then why don't you figure out whether turtles are frickin' anapsids or diapsids? You'd think that'd be pretty key...

So, as a result of my physical, mental, and emotional block of putting this lecture together, I have turned to cable T.V. for consolation. School work is really having the same effect on me as being depressed - I have to have a background distraction (usually in the form of a RomCom (romance comedy)) to get me through these trying times and help dull the pain. So suddenly I found myself watching the Hallmark Channel. Yes, I said Hallmark Channel. It's pretty much the poor man's (or woman's) Lifetime, and lacks the surprise of an old woman talking about sex and sex toys like O! Television for Women. Not only did I realize my life had reached a new low, but I embraced it like two flightless birds in a courtship dance.

I watched a movie who's title I still do not know unabashedly for 70 minutes, and reveled in its warm glow. There was not even an attempt at putting together one mere lecture slide during this time; there was not even a thought about changing the channel. Luckily, these events are documented by a series of emails to a witness who will remain nameless to protect his or her identity.

Email 1 [7:37pm]: "Help! I'm watching a Hallmark movie! Make fun of me so I stop!!!!"

Email 2 [7:46pm]: "They just got engaged but there's drama between the mothers!!! How is this going to be resolved???"

Email 3 [7:52pm]: "The father from "Step by Step" is in it. ANDDDDDDDDDD an old Shelly Long!!!!!"

Email 4 [7:58pm]: "They live in a Country Club and drive around in golf carts!!"

Email 5 [8:09pm]: "The mothers are going to make the bridesmaids wear pastels...I just know it. AND coffee just spilled on the invitations proofs and the bride-to-be is crying!"

Email 6 [8:19]: "They're postponing the wedding. I think I'm going to cry. They just broke both of their mother's heart!!!"

Email 7 [8:24pm]: "I just made Ramen so I wouldn't miss any of the movie and the commercial breaks are really short."

Email 8 [8:37pm]: "The best man caught the bouquet. I think the best man and maid of honor would make a great sequel!"

And just for clarity, yes all those emails were from me and unanswered; and yes, I did make Ramen so I wouldn't miss any of the movie as I can't see my T.V. from the stove. I'm pretty sure I've just moved into top-ranking housewife status. As for the movie, it was like one of those bad (bad in a bad way...someone out there knows what I mean) romance novels where you don't even get foreplay with a hint of satisfaction.

And as the natural progression of life goes - as demonstrated time and time again in the fossil record - Hallmark has been followed by Love Actually (which I will never get sick of), The Holiday (which you'd think I'd be sick of watching after how many times I went through it in a percocet-induced stupor this summer), a Dirty Jobs-a-thon, a gripping and emotionally stirring Project Runway, and capped with The Karate Kid and a smidgeon of The Jewel of the Nile. Though, I will argue that I can't find fault in my behavior when it comes to Dirty Jobs. Mike Rowe is, after all, the future father of my legitimate children. So long story short, these cable T.V. experiences have lead me to blogging.

Oh, did I mention I'm watching Hello Dolly! right now? Please tell me that moving on to Broadway musicals is a good sign...