Angry Birds

So school has been keeping me very busy. I’m incredibly burnt out and I really needed this break. Having gone to school over the summer with a week off before and after, I’ve not really had a good break since last Christmas. I enjoyed my first semester at UNCW (affectionately known as Dub). I didn’t do as well as I would have liked, but I started the semester still all messed up in the head over the personal life stuff. Eh, I’m not sweating it.

I’m spending my break just decompressing. Mostly, that entails taking pictures of birds. I think I’m pissing them off, honestly, but have a look for yourself.

That's Quite Enough, by me

That's Quite Enough, by me

That’s a male Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) giving me the bad-eye.

 

Getting the Badeye from a Yellow-rumped Warbler, by me

Getting the Badeye from a Yellow-rumped Warbler, by me

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata)

 

What's Your Problem, Creeper??, by me

What's Your Problem, Creeper??, by me

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

 

Brown-headed Nuthatch, by me

Brown-headed Nuthatch, by me

Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla)

 

Angry Eastern Bluebird, by me

Angry Eastern Bluebird, by me

Female Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

 

Great Blue Heron Gives Me the Stinkeye, by me

Great Blue Heron Gives Me the Stinkeye, by me

Juvenile Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

See a pattern, or is it just me?

I’ll put up some less angry-looking birds next time.

From whence came the art:

All images are ©2010 by me, and are clickable to see larger versions on my Flickr site.

Things I Should Have Learned in Chem I (but didn’t)

Coastal Carolina Community College, by LouFCD @ Flickr

Coastal Carolina Community College, by LouFCD @ Flickr

I love my school. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

I love the campus (tore up with construction as it is at the moment), I love the size, I love the variety of classes offered (though I wish there were more, of course), I love the high standards, and most of all I love the faculty and staff. I don’t think I’ve ever met a conglomeration of people so dedicated to the purpose of helping a rag-tag, diverse bunch of people and their unique needs as the faculty at Coastal. With one exception (an instructor no longer there, I might add), I’ve spent nearly two years watching instructors fall all over themselves to help students understand the presented material, and inspire us to think about it, evaluate it, expand on it, and run like hell with it. I don’t know if this is the norm for the community college as I’ve never attended another, but it certainly wasn’t my university experience lo, those many years ago. I will sorely miss Coastal when I graduate this Spring and transfer to UNCW this Fall, regardless of how wonderful an experience that might be.

That freedom, I tend to think, has taken a rather extensive toll on this blog (not to mention JanieBelle’s!). I expend a great deal of creative energy going above and beyond, working my ass off to not just pass my classes, but to excel in them, and when I get home, quite frankly, there’s little left for personal projects like blogging or even photography.

So it pains me to level a criticism, valid as it may be, in any shape or form. I have already taken my concern to several of the instructors there, and to The Chair, and I am satisfied that my voice has been heard and the situation is properly addressed. Nevertheless, I thought a bit of explanation for the title and point of this post is in order.

I took CHM 151 (Chem I) online last semester. I didn’t want to, but it was only offered at times when other classes that I needed were offered, and it was the best of a list of unsatisfactory choices for me, near as I could tell with the information I had in hand. Some days will be like that. Coastal can’t possibly tailor their entire schedule to every student, and they do go out of their way to do the best they can with what they have to work with. So with the consolation that at least I’d have a real on-campus lab, I elected to do the online lecture.

Big mistake.

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On the Composition of Charles

Swarmed, by LouFCD on Flickr

Swarmed, by LouFCD on Flickr

In my spare time (haha) I’m again reading Darwin’s Origin of Species. It’s an incredibly insightful work for its day or any other, and even modern biology writers, with all the updated information available at our fingertips, are hard pressed to match its beauty.

In reading it again with my own now more advanced understanding of biology, I’m struck by two things in particular within the first several chapters. The first that stands out to me is Darwin’s mastery of the turn-of-phrase. In World Lit II last semester, the pieces we read were exemplars of their time period. The early and mid-nineteenth century works were chosen specifically to highlight the Romantics’ “rejection” of Enlightenment ideals. The systematic logic and naturalistic view of the universe was traded in for adornment, symbolism, and emotion. Yet even then I noted in an essay on my midterm that Darwin was an outstanding exception to this rule.

Romantics viewed the world around them as a natural extension of their emotions. Emotion and Nature are inextricably intertwined, the one often used as a symbol for the other. This was a rejection of Enlightenment ideals of the logic and order of Nature. They valued this emotion and its connection to the natural world almost to the exclusion of reason. (Charles Darwin was a notable exception, whose seminal 1859 treatise on evolution, “On the Origin of Species &etc” being a work replete with both the reason valued by the Enlightenment and the powerful emotive awe treasured by the Romantics.)

(I may transcribe my entire response as a separate post, just for fun – I was pretty happy with the way it came out, under pressure and unedited, and in response to a perfect prompt for taking modern Creationists to the woodshed – you know I took that bait with reckless abandon.)

I stand by that comment, and this latest read reinforces my opinion that Darwin exemplifies the best of both Enlightenment and Romantic writing. His synthesis is unparalleled among the writers of his day.

An oft-quoted example of his beautiful mastery of emotive language is found in the final passage of Origin:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

The other glaring feature of the first several chapters is my own recurring frustration. On nearly every single page I read, I want to just scream backwards through time words of encouragement to get this greatest of minds to take that one last little step that in retrospect is so very very tiny. Darwin was one thought away from picking up the revolutionary idea of Gregor Mendel. He dances all around it, a ballerina doing elegant pirouettes without ever quite stepping on that one spot in the center – particulate theory of inheritance. (Genes, we call them.)

Thus it is, as I believe, that when the males and females of any animal have the same general habits of life, but differ in structure, colour, or ornament, such differences have been mainly caused by sexual selection; that is, individual males have had, in successive generations, some slight advantage over other males, in their weapons, means of defense, or charms; and have transmitted these advantages to their male offspring.

I have to sigh, and be resigned to the facts of history, else I might scream. Particles, Charles, particles.

From whence came the art:

That image is titled Swarmed, by me, and is © 2009.

From the Seashore, by Anna Petrovna Bunina (1806)

Pelican Sunrise, by LouFCD @ Flickr

Pelican Sunrise, by LouFCD @ Flickr

In 1806, a Russian poet by the name of Anna Petrovna Bunina wrote something strange, and dark, and beautiful. She titled it, “С ПРИМОРСКОГО БЕРЕГА”, roughly translated “From the Seashore”. We read a translation by Pamela Perkins (in the Norton Anthology) early in our semester in my World Lit II class, and honestly it took a while to grow on me.

When it came time to begin work on our creative project for the semester, I turned to this piece for my inspiration. Since I’d been working on my photography it seemed natural to blend the two and see what happened.

The photo above is an outtake from that project. (As usual, all images in this post are linked to their respective Flickr page. For desktop-sized versions, click through to Flickr and then click the “All Sizes” button above each photo.)

I’m very tickled. In fact, I’m so tickled that although it’s usually my policy not to put my school work on the blog until after it’s graded and returned to me, I just can’t wait any more. You’re getting this before it’s even due. (This Thursday, for the record.)

The poem in its original Russian, an English translation by me, my photos from the project, and a few more outtakes are below the fold. (If you have religious nudity-related neuroses, no need to tell me about them, just move along. I don’t really care.)

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Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nest Sitting

Turtle Nest, by LouFCD on Flickr

Turtle Nest, by LouFCD on Flickr

I’ve been in the field a few times in the last several weeks. Though my classwork has me about buried, I really enjoy these little stress relievers where I can just enjoy the surroundings and take a few pictures. It started around Labor Day weekend, when I spent several nights sitting a nest of Loggerhead Sea Turtles down on North Topsail Beach. The turtles were due to hatch about any day, so I was very excited. Alas, they never did hatch out while I was there, but it was a relaxing time for the most part anyway.

In fact the Sea Turtle Hospital has no record of a hatch to date (nest 55). There are several possible reasons for that. They may have hatched during a storm while no one was looking, with the storm erasing every trace of their leaving the nest. That happens sometimes. The turtles could have been drowned by a storm as they were hatching, too. Also, while the possibility exists that this was a false nest, the Sea Turtle Hospital folks were pretty sure this was a real nest.

So it was a bit frustrating, sad, and disappointing, but I got some photos of other things that I thought I’d share here anyway. They are below the fold.

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Photoblogging My Coastal Friends

Bianca, by LouFCD on Flickr

Bianca, by LouFCD on Flickr

My good friend and Zoology classmate Bianca (pictued above – forget it, she’s married) noted to me at school that Crowded Head has been very ranty of late. While it’s true that this is my own special place for venting, I’d rather not allow that to become the general tone here, either.

With that in mind, I’ve been looking for something to write that doesn’t involve a great deal of venom and spittle. I’ve not really been inspired to write much lately though, what with school sucking up all my creative energy like a sponge on a bar.

It occurs to me that I haven’t posted any of my recent photos here, however, so I’m going to share some of my favorites that I’ve taken lately.

I’ve shot a handful of friends from school, and I have an idea about doing a specific collection (I’ll write about it when it’s done). Meanwhile, these have begun to grow into a bit of a personal yearbook.

More photos of my friends and schoolmates lie below the fold.

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To the Virgins, to Make Much of Wooden Horses

My Instructor's remark.

My Instructor's remark.

This is my second reading and response for Paul Verlaine (read the first here). The poem I chose to read and respond to was “Wooden Horses”  (1874), wherein Verlaine takes aim at using a carousel as symbolic for life. While this could have been his best of the lot, the didacticism of his Victorian mores is as sophomorically simplistic as it is blatant. “Wooden Horses” has all the subtlety of a sixteen-pound sledgehammer wielded by a bridge troll.

He uses gross stereotyping to create a strawman version of hedonistic pleasure, with as much negative imagery as humanly possible. I was particularly annoyed by “… the fattest maid / riding your backs as if in their chamber”, roughly translated into modern English as “the big fat ho / fucking the wooden carousel horse like nobody’s business”. Could he be anymore derisive or crass? I found it offensive in the extreme, what with my modern feminist sensibilities and all. That kind of crap is uncalled for in any time period, though it’s pervasive in the writings of fuckaphobes throughout history.

Fuck you in your dead ass, Paul.

I cannot stress enough how much I disliked reading Verlaine. Trite and unimaginative, puritanical and offensive. These are not the traits I look for in a decent writer, much less a poet. Fortunately, we have moved on through Mallarmé and now we’re on to Chekhov, writers with a bit of sense and perspective.

The poem by Verlaine (again translated by C. F. MacIntyre) and my response in rhyming couplets lies below the fold.

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Sir, You Do Not Know the Moon

My instructor's remarks.

My instructor's remarks.

Paul Verlaine was a French poet whose 19th century work sort of straddled the Romantic and Symbolist movements. Critics seem to love the guy, but I found his stuff rather uninspiring. While the case has been forwarded that Verlaine only sounds trite and prosaic now because it’s old and been done over and over since then, I would argue that it had all been done before by better poets (The Bard of Avon comes to mind).

Our assignment for World Lit was to read two of the five offered (translated by C. F. MacIntyre) selections and write a paragraph in response to each. As I was bored to tears with him and his shallow fling, I went a bit creative with my responses. About the only thing I found interesting about Verlaine was the progression of his style over time.

For my first response, I actually read and addressed two related poems, “Moonlight” (1869) and “The White Moonglow”  (originally untitled from 1870). Those poems and my Sonnet in response lie below the fold. (Read the second reading and response here in another post.)

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Blogging My Zoology Class 20090904

Our textbook, Animal Diversity, by Hickman, et al

Our textbook, Animal Diversity, by Hickman, et al

I’m going to get back to the Blogging My Biology Class series, finish out 111, do up 112, and tack on my Zoology class as well. It’s going to be a bit jumpy, though, but on the main series page they’ll all wind up in order by date of the class, rather than date of posting.

For now, my classmate Kristy needs notes from a particular day, so that’s up first.

We started out with a few announcements, a reminder that anyone wanting to do 20 hours of service learning would receive 4 points on their final grade, but that forms were due in to the Student Services office by Friday, 11 September. It’s more than half a letter grade in our 7 point grading system, so it’s worth the price of admission.

Next up was Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nest Sitting down on Topsail Island. There are several nests ready to hatch out any day, and anyone wanting to see this was welcome to head down and hang out. I wound up sitting at a nest on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, several hours each night, but no turtles thus far. I may or may not be able to make it tonight. It’s pouring down the rain, I’ve developed a head cold, and I have an 8 AM English class tomorrow. Of course, if I don’t make it, they’ll hatch tonight just to spite me. Little bastards.

Wary Gull, by LouFCD @ Flickr

Wary Gull, by LouFCD @ Flickr

I took a bunch of pictures of other stuff while waiting, and I’ll be posting them here on the blog for your viewing pleasure.

With that, we got back to where we had left off on Wednesday, with the Tissue Level of Organization.

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A Modest Reponse

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Sonnet XVIII, by Lou FCD @ Flickr

Back in the days of yore when I went to high school, there were two kinds of Literature classes: British and American. With few exceptions, our reading selections were confined to the standard pantheon of a select few dead white guys from England or the United States. Both classes were as predictable as the sunrise; Brit Lit started with Beowulf, then Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales, then one of Shakespeare‘s plays, and probably finished with DickensA Tale of Two Cities. Variety was defined by whether the class read Hamlet or Macbeth. Poetry hit the five or ten standards like an old country church. Not comparing thee to a summer’s day would have been like not singing “Amazing Grace”. American Lit did the same thing for literature on this side of the pond, with Poe standing in for the Bard (“The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Raven” were the old standards).

To round out my English requirements, lo these many eons hence, I took English 262 this semester. World Lit II looked like it would give me something new and fresh, and it’s already doing just that. Among our first selections was “A Modest Proposal: For Preventing the Children of Poor People in Ireland from Being a Burden to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Public“, the 1729 political satire by Jonathan Swift. Of course, in my mind to this point, Swift = Gulliver’s Travels. No matter how hard pressed I might have been, that would have been his only work I could have named, his being Irish and all. I’d read it on my own time as a kid. We’ve since moved a bit further from jolly old England and are now reading pieces by Russians and Germans and (gasp!) some of them are even women not named Dickinson or Bronte.

Our first written assignment of the class was to write a response to A Modest Proposal, organically incorporating the answers to five of the six following questions in the response.

Smoothies for cannibals from DavidDMuir

Smoothies for cannibals, by DavidDMuir @ Flickr

  1. What is “the reading” about? Give the simple and most obvious answer. (Substitute title for “reading”).

  2. Is there an experience of your own of which “the reading” has reminded you? Describe it.

  3. What is the most important “word” in the “reading”? Look it up in the dictionary and define it. Explain your choice.

  4. What is the most important statement or line in the “reading”? Directly quote the line if it is short, and paraphrase if the quote is long. Use an in-text citation that lists the page number (or line number). Explain your choice.

  5. What word, not in the “reading,” would you say best explains the “reading”? Define the word and explain your choice.

  6. Pretend that the “reading” is not about the subject you mentioned in #1. Pretend that there is something else, less obvious, that the “reading” is about. What is this “something else”? Define the word and explain your choice.

My response, for which I received a grade of “check +” (oh how I loathe this system already!), lies below the fold. I suggest you read “A Modest Proposal” first, if you’re not familiar with it, to really understand what’s going on.

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Donna Hughes and the War Against Whores

I Support Sex Workers' Rights

I Support Sex Workers' Rights

What do anti-sex crusaders and the sellers of creationist bullshit have in common?

I mean besides quotemining, deliberate conflation, obfuscation, and general disregard for reality. Well it turns out they’re both examples of scum sucking dirtbags.

Look, two academics squaring off against other academics, including one who HAS been an actual supporter of sex workers, and one who does listen to what we have to say, over what, you might ask? Prostitution in Rhode Island.

Read the rest at Renegade Evolution, because I don’t even want to repeat the fucking dishonest, disgusting, filthy garbage that Donna Hughes put out. I just don’t have the stomach to print that pile of shit, so read it at Ren’s.

Clutching Pearls

Woman Clutching Her Pearls. 5th Ave - MDPNY20090617, by mdpNY @ Flickr

Woman Clutching Her Pearls. 5th Ave - MDPNY20090617, by mdpNY @ Flickr

I recently received a bit of a hat tip from a teacher of 18 years who is just dipping her feet into the blogosphere. I always appreciate a mention and a link when someone finds something here at Crowded Head that they like or find informative. Peggy apparently did, and said so. I sort of got conflated a bit with Brian Switek who led the discussion in the conference session about which I blogged, but there are certainly worse people with whom to be confused, from my point of view. (I’ll let Brian speak for himself on his end.)

In any event, Peggy found some interesting points that she thought might be useful to her as a teacher and pointed them out as part of an assignment for her ITED 511 class.

One of her commenters though, not so much.

This is a comment about the first blog entry – “Teaching College Science: Blogs and Beyond”

How do I say…what I am about to say…and be politically correct? There is too much sex referenced on the web page. It distracted me from the blog. It also gave me credibility issues. In one sentence the blogger talks about his excitement with teaching high school students, while several sex-related ads run in the margins.

Or am I misunderstanding the sex part? Please come to my rescue here.

I hope I’m wrong.

I presume that Linda meant that my blog gave me credibility issues, but I’d argue her statement is more accurate as it stands.

I of course was a bit bewildered, thinking perhaps my blog had been hacked or something and immediately checked, looking for “several sex-related ads run in the margins”.

Um.. yeah.

There is exactly one ad and it’s for a charity calendar, unless you count the link to Sex in the Public Square where I am a contributing editor (though calling that an “ad” when SitPS doesn’t sell anything is a bit of a stretch of the vernacular). No racy pictures or nuthin’. (What’s with that, anyway? I really have to spice up the blog sidebars at some point.) A purple banner linking to the 2010 NYC Sex Bloggers Calendar (have you ordered yours yet? Get on that!!) gets poor Linda clutching her pearls. Not exactly what I would characterize as “several sex-related ads run[ning] in the margins”.

Anyway, more interesting than Linda’s apoplexy is the underlying assumption that high school teachers should be asexual, or perhaps at least publicly so. It’s not an uncommon attitude in our society, but exactly where did this supremely bizarre notion come from? Does anyone actually know any high school teachers that are not at all sexual? Is that even possible?

Honestly, I’ve considered writing less about sex here from time to time in light of the medieval attitudes about the subject. I am aware that here in North Carolina school boards and the general public are all about waving their Bibles around and clucking their tongues about other people’s sex lives. (And let me point out here as an aside that the Bible is probably not the best anthology of fairy tales on which to base one’s prudery – have you ever read that thing? It’s not even well written porn, mostly.) Yes, even tangentially discussing human sexuality decimates my hirability here in Jesusland, but that’s exactly the kind of problem I work to correct with what I write. It would be rather hypocritical of me to bow to that kind of pressure when I’m preaching on the other corner about standing up to sexual repression.

I just can’t bring myself to do that.

So for the foreseeable future expect to see posts here on sex and sexuality right alongside posts about my Biology and English classes. You’ll find sexy photos of my wife, and you’ll find write ups of Science Conferences I attend. If a school board I’m considering working for later has their panties in such a wad that they can’t hire me because I’m unashamedly human, then that’s their loss and unfortunately, their students’ loss.

Hell, just for spite I might even let JanieBelle make the occasional guest appearance.

From whence came the art:

That image is titled Woman Clutching her Pearls. 5th Ave – MDPNY20090617, by mdpNY, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial No Derivative Works license.

There Is No Such Thing As Alternative Medicine

Witch Doctor by Felix42 contra la censura @ Flickr

Witch Doctor by Felix42 contra la censura @ Flickr

There is no such thing as alternative medicine. Test it against a placebo. If it works better than the placebo, it’s not alternative – if it doesn’t, it’s not medicine.

At its most basic, the heart of the matter really is that simple.

Think your herb tea cures your cold?

Test it against a placebo. If it works better than the placebo, it’s not alternative – if it doesn’t, it’s not medicine.

The United States federal government has spent $2.5 billion testing alternative medicines.

Ginko biloba helps your memory?

There is no such thing as alternative medicine. Test it against a placebo. If it works better than the placebo, it’s not alternative – if it doesn’t, it’s not medicine.

“Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.”

Shark cartilage cures cancer?

There is no such thing as alternative medicine. Test it against a placebo. If it works better than the placebo, it’s not alternative – if it doesn’t, it’s not medicine.

The board in charge of the testing was artificially loaded with proponents of “alternative medicine”, and still FAILed to find any evidence that these treatments worked any better than placebo.

“The bottom line is that NCCAM is an ideological, not a scientific organization. It exists to validate CAM, not to test whether it works or not. And when it doesn’t produce the results its boosters in the legislature, like Tom Harkin, want to see, there’s serious trouble.”

Guess what? There is no such thing as alternative medicine. Test it against a placebo. If it works better than the placebo, it’s not alternative – if it doesn’t, it’s not medicine.

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Summer Update

Turkey Vulture in the Clouds

Turkey Vulture in the Clouds

So the semester is over and summer is officially here for me, solstice be damned. I’ll probably be able to blog a bit more, and vent some of the accumulated thoughts jumbled up in my brain.

For now, a few bits of updates.

I’ll be reading and reviewing The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose, for Carnal Nation. I’ll post a link for you when it’s up.

I’ll be hosting the next Carnival of the Liberals here on May 20th. I’ve been receiving submissions and should be getting to those by tomorrow. To this point, they’ve been shunted into a folder in my mailbox just because they started coming in during the lead up to finals week.

Speaking of finals, I think our team project for English 113 (our final was a presentation on one of Hamlet’s soliloquys) went OK, and I expect an A on that and in the class.

I bumped into my Bio 112 prof in a store here in town a few hours after the Bio final. He stopped to say hello and told me I got an A on the final, and complimented my answer regarding The Tragedy of the Commons. I don’t think I did well on the previous exam, so I’m thinking I’m in A/B borderland. Hopefully the final will pull me above the line.

I’ve been doing a lot of photography, uploading pics to my Facebook albums and to Twitpic. Kay is prepping to graduate high school next month, and since the ceremony will be in the football stadium, we needed a decent camera. I had been scrounging to find some cash for summer tuition, but we diverted those funds (and then a little) into getting a Canon EOS Rebel xs a few days ago since I won’t be going to school this summer anyway, and I’ve been using the heck out of it and trying to figure out all those knobs and buttons.

And that’s a bit of a story, too. UNCW Center for Marine Science gives two paid internships per year to Coastal Biology students, and I was nominated by the department for one of them. That was awesome and I was very excited. But then Dub emailed The Chair to tell her that the economy tanked those two internships. That was not awesome and I was bummed. Then Dub emailed The Chair again, and offered one internship on a volunteer basis, and I was offered that. So I guess now I’m quasi-excited. I said from the beginning that I would have done it for free, and in fact assumed it was volunteer at first and was happy to do it, but then I found out I was going to be paid, and now that I’m not going to be paid… well, y’know. I’m excited, but feel a bit like a kid teased with a lolipop. Oh well, I’m looking forward to it. Dub is where I intend to finish my bachelors degree and they have a ton of interesting research projects going, so it’s still a great opportunity. I’m really proud of being nominated for that one slot.

Easy Cool

Easy Cool

And JP. James tried pole vaulting this year for the first time. It’s interesting in that he had no idea that my Pop was a pole vaulter in high school. He seems to love it, finished fifth in the conference, and even went to Regionals. He lettered, and he’s got three more years of vaulting ahead of him. How freaking cool is that?

Oh, and he’s fifteen today. Happy Birthday, son.

From whence came the art:

I took both of those images with my new Canon EOS Rebel xs, and they are each licensed by me under the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- Share Alike 3.0 License.

Enter the Queen

Queen Gertrude, by Jim Carson @ Flickr

Queen Gertrude, by Jim Carson @ Flickr

One of the prompts for my last paper in English 113 was to write a soliloquy for Gertrude. The following essay was an eleventh hour idea that was instantly one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written.

I put it at the beginning of the play, as a prologue to the play itself. As such, I thought I’d give iambic pentameter a go, which sort of separates it from the main play.

(Note that Aros is an archaic alternate spelling of Eros.)

Enter the Queen

Prelude

GERTRUDE: Life was a field of hay when first we wed.

The joy and pain and lust and tame were mixed

within our bed. Where hath my lover gone?

Submissive colt, my sweet adoring man,

Hamlet my King, both Dane and thane. Secret

desires not known or feared among common

or high lay deep within the breast of him.

The rest of Gertrude’s soliloquy lies below the fold, click to read the rest.
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Name that Flu

Vote early, vote often! Or write in your own answer!

For the Love of Frost

An essay I turned in this morning for English 113.

For the Love of Frost

One of my wishes is that those dark trees,

So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,

Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,

But stretched away unto the edge of doom. (Frost, “Into My Own”)

With these words in 1913, an awkward, gangling farm boy inexpertly expressed his interest in the most popular girl in school, the one all the poets wanted. Robert Frost had made written acquaintance with the American public some years prior but it was not until he moved to England that we took notice of our would-be suitor. His adolescent flirting would rapidly mature to the lingering kisses of a timeless affaire d’amour. Though there were some lovers’ quarrels through the years, his voice still whispers the little nothings we love to hear as we think back on relaxing in those peaceful moments of intimate connection. Our relationship with Frost began as an awkward courtship, tarried in sensual consummation, and now drifts restfully in the memories of half-conscious pillow talk.

Though his initial overture was unpolished and inelegant, our débutante’s attention was captured and our interest piqued. We had previously been courted by a boy named Edgar, but he was a bit too brooding for our collective taste. Edgar was fine enough to sigh over but not much fun to date, and we were looking for someone new with whom to share our evenings. We commented in our diary about our new beau, “Mr. Frost’s [A Boy's Will] is a little raw, and has in it a number of infelicities; underneath them it has the tang of the New Hampshire woods, and it has just this utter sincerity” (Pound – emphasis in the original). Ezra Pound perfectly captured the country’s enchantment with Robert Frost. What set Frost apart from other poets was his skillful use of modest language to talk about everyday life. Grand pronouncements on cosmic-scale themes he left for other poets, and it was exactly those sincere infelicities that won America’s heart and soul.

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A Brief History of Moonbats

Lou FCD

Lou FCD headshot by Ben Zvan

Last Thursday evening was a pleasant one. It was mild and welcoming, a good night for a drive to Wilmington. I had been by the University of North Carolina campus there, but hadn’t yet been to visit. I’ve been meaning to head down there to look around for a while now, as that’s where I intend to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Biology. The reason for this trip was mildly ironic given my intentions, as my son James and I were headed there to hear an anti-science advocate speak.

Dr. Michael Behe is a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He’s also a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a well known creationist think tank whose purpose is to disguise religious doctrine as science in order to avoid the Constitutional ban on promoting religion in public schools. It was Behe that we were heading down to see.

Along the hour and a half drive, I gave my son the highlights of the full history of the Intelligent Design Creationism Hoax, parts of which he’s heard before. (Bear in mind here that I was driving, and not working from notes. I’ll be filling in details as I go that he didn’t get during our conversation.) I began with some background on the history of scientific discoveries in biology since Linnaeus. Carolus Linnaeus was Swedish doctor, a botanist, and a zoologist, who set about categorizing life’s varied forms in his long-evolving work, “Systema Naturae”, first published in 1735.

I touched on William Paley’s rehashing of Cicero’s water clock, and the the obvious logical flaw contained therein. In On the Nature of the Gods, Cicero’s character Balbus, a fictional follower of Plato, posited that because a sundial or a water clock has an obvious purpose, we can then infer that it was designed by some intelligence. Balbus went on to argue that because of the complexity of nature, we can therefore infer that the universe is also designed by some intelligence. Balbus concluded that the universe itself was divine, or possibly that the universe had a divine spirit, a sort of mono/pantheism (Collins 187 – 193). Paley bastardized the assertion in 1802, altering the water clock to a watch, and the deity in question to the Christian god (Paley 5 – 13). He failed however to remove the glaring logical flaw that we only perceive complexity in contrast to simplicity, the watch on the background of the heath. One cannot then use the complexity of the watch to argue for the complexity of the heath without undermining the original argument that the watch is itself complex and inherently different from the heath. This was important for what was to come, and I was later quite glad I had taken the time (we had plenty on the ride) to discuss it with James.

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Monster Tales from the 112 Lab

Hydra - Feeding Extension by ravenofdreams

Hydra - Feeding Extension by ravenofdreams

So today we did a bunch of cool stuff in our Biology 112 lab. We started out by prepping and inoculating some petri dishes with a couple different kinds of fungi.

Into our first four petri dishes, we inoculated some Arthrobotrys. Arthrobotrys is a genus of predacious fungus. We’ll give them a week to grow, and then next week we’re going to feed some nematodes to them. That’s pretty neat.

Two more dishes got one culture of wild Sordaria and one tan Sordaria for a cross. Two more got one wild and one gray.

Then the really monstrous critter stuff started.

We got a watchglass and a dissection microscope and put a little Hydra in it. We observed its behavior for a while, and then added a few Daphnia. Hydra feed on Daphnia. When the Daphnia comes close, the Hydra‘s tentacles grab it, and then sting it to death while it struggles. It was very cool to watch.

After that, we moved on to some pond water. We’d put a few drops of pond water onto a slide and check it out under the regular scope, and draw anything we saw moving around. I found some neat stuff, including a good size flatworm on one slidefull, and a few Urocetra (centrums?) on a few slides, a Diatom or two, a Ciliate that closely resembled a Paramecium (Doc II identified it as a Plagiopyla minuta or something close)…

It was all very small stuff, and I was busy chasing a Ciliate around the slide to try and get a good view of his cilia. They’re fast little buggers, and since the table mover knobs are on the right side of the scope, and I’m right handed, I was swapping between moving the table and making quick, partial sketches of what I saw. Everything was going along quietly when all of a sudden…

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Hanging Out the Shingle

Coastal Carolina Community College

Coastal Carolina Community College

When the PASS program started this semester, the administration gave us an office. Sort of. Actually, it was a break room/copy room kind of thing for the faculty in the Science building, and we just sort of met there.

It was uncomfortable, really. Personally, I felt like we were invading their common-space, and underfoot. Doc happened in there one day while I was working, and expressed his (and the other faculty’s) discomfort as well, noting that the network printer/copier was in there, and exams and such get printed there. Probably not the best situation, considering that we’re also students and have students coming to us for extra help. The traffic was kind of distracting as well.

Doc pointed out that there was an actual office available down the hall. It had been set aside for the adjuncts, but they didn’t use it. Seems they prefer the conference room and prep room to work. I liked the idea, needless to say, and Doc went to bat for us with the Science Department Chair.

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