Cool Animal Meme

27 09 2007

An interesting animal I had

Chase accompanying me on the couch

I’ve had a number of pets over the years (mostly lizards, frogs, and fish), but the most “interesting” animal I’ve ever kept is one of the cats that has been living in my apartment since this time last year. Born in 2000, Chase the cat was born to a feral mother but taken in by a large family who were friends of the woman who was later to become my wife. In 2005, when I came into the picture and visited the family now and then, I would find Chase and pet him for a little while, although it seemed Chase was a little neurotic. Eventually the family got a poodle, and the poodle decided it liked to play with Chase (I don’t think I need to tell you how Chase felt, being swatted at by a big black dog), and something had to change. So my wife and I took Chase in, but he’s definitely a strange cat . I’m the only person he is affectionate towards, so if his food bowl is empty while my wife is home he won’t let her know, but the moment I walk in the door he runs to his food bowl and starts crying. If you ever meet me, you’re likely to see little white hairs all over my clothes despite my best attempts to remove them, as well; Chase sheds nearly constantly, to the point where I wonder why he’s not bald by now. Chase also enjoys foods I didn’t think any cat liked; he’ll eat watermelon, grapes, and duct tape (although I’ve prevented this whenever he’s tried). He also licks windowsills for fun and likes to stand in front of the AC at night, but to prevent myself from going into a long post about my cat’s strange behavior Chase is definitely the most interesting animals I’ve ever had.

An interesting animal I ate

Do all the spiders I’ve probably eaten in my sleep count? My family was not especially interested in exotic dishes, so meat usually equaled chicken, turkey, or beef (sometimes fish). I did try escargot once, but the most interesting animal I’ve ever eaten will probably be a mystery to me (it was likely found inside a hot dog casing).

An interesting animal in the Museum

Just one? At the moment I would pick Amphicyon, one of the “bear dogs” of the Oligocene-Miocene (many being found in North America). I have another picture, which is unfortunately on another computer, of the skeleton caught in the light of a fading winter day, the light glinting off the teeth of the specimen pictured below. As some others have mentioned in previous comment threads, there’s little doubt that skeletal remains of this animal gives a few children nightmares.

The crushing jaws of Amphicyon.

An interesting thing I did with or to an animal

Two summers ago I went to Ocean City, Maryland with Tracey to go shark tagging. Although I was seasick for most of the trip, I did catch a juvenile Dusky Shark that I helped to tag and release. Hopefully I’ll have some more interesting animal encounters in the future that are a bit less traumatic for the creature.

An interesting animal in its natural habitat

I actually haven’t seen that many exciting animals in their “natural habitat.” Growing up in suburbia, squirrels, chickadees, white-tailed deer, and the occasional opossum or raccoon were the most I could hope for. Even now, most of the wildlife I photograph is confined to zoos, but I definitely want to see as many of the big cats as possible in the wild. Actually, one of my goals is to get to the Okovango Delta in Botswana, either to study or to merely photograph and observe, as I’m very much interested in how populations of animals there differ from populations elsewhere in Africa. Maybe someday…

I was tagged by Bora, and I tag Julia, Greg, Neil, Zach, and Kate (but feel free to pick it up if you wish to do so).

The Tangled Bank pt. 89 now up!

26 09 2007

The new edition of The Tangled Bank is up at Aardvarchaeology, and don’t forget to get your submissions in for the next edition of The Boneyard coming up this Saturday at Fish Feet.

Favorite Female Science Bloggers

20 09 2007

As I noted the other day, the magazine The Scientist came out with an online article featuring some top science bloggers plugging their favorite life science blogs. As some has noted (Bora has the big list), however, no women life science bloggers were asked to contribute, and even though mention was made of some great blogs written by women, none were asked to contribute commendations for the main piece. Regardless of why women were overlooked, bloggers should not collectively shrug and move on, especially given the number of great science writers online who are female. Regarding this topic, my friend Julia asks whether part of the problem is 1) Anonymity, and/or 2) women who are scientists but do not write about science (the article was about life science blogs rather than all science blogs or academic blogs or all blogs in a general sense). Despite the narrower life science scope there are still plenty of great writers, male and female, and it would be hoped that a group asked to give recommendations would have reflected the actual diversity of life-science oriented bloggers.

In any event, I don’t want this post to be as much about the controversy surrounding The Scientist article as much as a look at some of my favorite female science bloggers. In fact, some of these bloggers have become some of my best friends on the internet and have been especially helpful in keeping me abreast of interesting stories and allowing me to share ideas with them, and while I am not as close with others on my short list I still admire their work.

~The Ethical Palaeontologist, a blog so fine that it makes me want to stop spelling the word “paleontology” and start spelling it “palaeontology.” My own spelling dilemmas aside, Julia runs a wonderful blog full of insight and humor (plus cool critters every Thursday), and her help has been invaluable in my own studies. A good friend and a great blogger, you’re really missing out if you’re not reading Julia’s work.

~The RedMolly Picayune-Democrat, a wonderful blog written by my friend Molly, full of witty passages, homeschooling discussions, and tales of (shared) frustration in trying to write a book, among other things (there’s nothing like a good 80’s off every now and then…). I had the luck of becoming acquainted with Molly this past spring when she had asked a question about cheetahs on behalf of her son, and she’s been sending me tidbits of natural history news gleaned from hither and yon (as well as awesome software, thanks again Molly!) ever since. No matter what you’re interested in, Molly’s blog always provides a pleasant read, and I can’t stress my endorsement of her work enough.

~Pondering Pikaia, an absolutely terrific science blog run by a fellow undergraduate student, Anne Marie. I have been floored by the excellent writing and good research exhibited on her blog ever since its inception this past May(!), and she definitely gives other science bloggers a run for their money. Indeed, Anne Marie is living proof that undergraduates can be great science writers too, and it will be a pleasure to be on a panel with her at the upcoming Science Blogging Conference (are you signed up yet?).

~Retrospectacle is an impressive neuroscience-oriented blog run by Shelly Batts, who I’ll also be joining for the panel on student blogging in January. Making it all the way to ScienceBlogs is impressive in and of itself, but the superb writing up on display continues to push the high-quality envelope.

~Living the Scientific Life, written by GrrlScientist, is another blog that’s part of the esteemed ScienceBlogs community, and it’s easy to see why. Beautiful pictures posted daily, excellent writing on mental health issues, and plenty of posts that are just plain fun to read round out a blog that always has something surprising when I enter the URL in my destination bar.

Bug Girl’s Blog, written by the Bug Girl (of course), covers a whole world of organisms with which I am only barely acquainted. From fireflies to spiders that work together to build massive webs, if you like inverts and aren’t reading her blog you’re really missing out. She’s also perhaps one of the foremost authorities (if not the foremost authority) in the blogosphere on DDT and I am ever-impressed with her knowledge of all things entomological. If that wasn’t enough, she’s had plenty of kind words for me and my own writing, giving me a bit of a boost during a rough start to this semester, proving that blogging is as much about community as it is about what shows up when you hit the “publish” button.

And last but not least…

~The Anterior Commissure, written by Kate, is definitely a science blog that the Rutgers community can be proud of. Kate’s recent post on a Reuter’s article about Viagra is enough in and of itself to make the blog worthy of special note (scarcely have I seen science summed up so well and with so much wit to make me literally LOL), but the whole thing is a trove of excellent writing. It might be overdoing things a bit, plugging the blog twice in one day, but it is only fair to give credit where it is due.

So that’s my short list; it’s not meant to be exhaustive, but merely to represent the work of just a few of the women out there generating some excellent writing (be it about science or not).

Update: I can’t believe that I forgot the ever-wonderful Fish Feet by Sarda. She took a little time off (hence my mental slip), but is now back in full swing and will soon be hosting The Boneyard (get those posts in!). She always has something new and interesting to say, written in a way that shows she has really thought about the subject rather than just repeating what’s already been done. Make sure you give her blog a look!

You should be reading this blog…

20 09 2007

It seems that I have to make an apology; for too long I’ve neglected to add the Anterior Commissure, a wonderful science blog from a fellow Rutgers student (albeit graduate student). If you’re not already reading it, you definitely should be. Also, Coturnix has aggregated just about every available response to an article in The Scientist about the best life science blogs, so check out his massively link-laden post.

And the Cehpalopodcast blog has some fun blog-based anagrams. Despite the pleasing potential titles “All Peas” or “Seal Pal,” I think I’ll stick with Laelaps.

When blogs attack…

6 09 2007

*pant**pant**gasps for air* I hope you can see why I haven’t been very active the past few days… Like I said, not much new for those who have been here for a while, but I thought I would try to connect what I’ve learned in a larger context. New material will be coming soon, promise (in the meanwhile, pay Carl Zimmer a visit and learn how Mahakala is bringing sexy back…)

My current school schedule has kept me pretty busy too, although today was a bit unusual. Here are the highlights from the last few days;

At the beginning of my “Fundamentals of Ecological and Envrionmental Modeling” class, the teacher held up a book entitled Calculus for Biology & Medicine; I didn’t know whether the laugh or cry. I sat through the class, jotting down function equations, and then I promptly set off for home and dropped the course.

So, down 4 credits (but still packing 13 total) I went in search of another class to take, hopefully one that would actually boost by GPA. Most of the evolutionary anthropology courses (i.e. Intro to Human Evolution, Social Games, Primate Social Evolution) all conflicted with courses I already had and was loathe to reschedule, but I did manage to find my way into one 3-hour topics course; Topics in the Prehistory of Africa. I missed the first class (d’oh!), but I’m meeting with the professor tomorrow to get the readings and get up to speed for next week.

I had my first Survery of Living Primates class today too, and it looks to be the best class I’ve signed up for yet. I had a brief conversation with the professor about le Gros Clark and Robert Sapolsky after the lecture, and I definitely want to get the most out of the course (although I think I had enough of a background where it should be more fun than anything else).

I had a meeting before lunch to nail down some future plans as well. I won’t divulge all the details as yet, but it looks like I’ll be teaching two lectures (one on Darwin, one of the flaws of intelligent design) at the end of the month. I can hardly wait.

Soils and Society is about as exciting as it sounds, although it is not nearly as difficult as last years “Soils and Water” course. I’m sure I’ll get through just fine, although it meets during the time of the day when I’m usually crashing from my sugar high and I need to fight to stay awake.

This weekend I’m headed to the Philadelphia Zoo, so I hope to have lots of pictures up this weekend. I’ll also be in search of a bookcase to hold the many volumes stacked next to the couch. It will surely be interesting when it comes time to move my library…

It’s odd getting home later than I usually do during the work week; I feel like I have no evening at all. Granted, I read on the bus, in between classes, and in the case of Intro to Computers, during class, but I still feel a bit hurried. Oh well, I don’t suppose there’s much I can do about that.

I am utterly amazed at all the compliments and links this blog has been showered with over the past few days. There are so many people to thank, I simply don’t know where to start. A more formal “thank you” will soon be forthcoming, but I really do appreciate all the support from other writers. Indeed, it’s odd that as soon as I recieved so much attention I had to run off for a day or two, but I hope to be back on track now. Still, as many readers know, I generally suffer from a lack of self-esteem and I always feel a bit behind the curve with what I write; at times I feel that I’m not really adding much to the conversation outside of random noise. I would keep writing no matter what, this blog being a catalog of my thoughts as much as anything else, but it certainly would not be the same without the support from the blogging community at large and the few regular readers/commenters/friends who keep me trying to outdo my previous work. I wish there is something more substantial I could do, but for now, thank you all for everything.

And now to open a can of Pepsi and turn on the Simpsons for a bit until my brain recovers. More of your regularly-scheduled paleo-posting will resume shortly…

Sunday Afternoon Dispatches

2 09 2007

Autumn crept into the late-night air along 287 South early this morning. After a pleasant day, I stepped into the minutely chill air that had settled in New York State, taking in the my first realy breaths of fall air as I walked down to the car. Despite the 3rd season wasting no time in claiming September evenings, I had a pleasant day with my wife’s aunt in the Chappaqua area, hiking along a local reservoir and enjoying a meal that seemed to come a little late; corn on the cob, all-beef hot dogs, potato salad, and summer squash. The trails we traveled were much more flat that the AT, the hardscrabble climb of the scree laying me out the rest of last weekend, and mica washed out of the glacially-deposited rocks glinted on many the trails wer traveled. If time permits, I’ll post pictures from the trip later tonight.

I also managed to finish The Bonehunter’s Revenge last night after dinner, although I still have to read the latter half aloud to my wife (I am definitely glad she’s so interested in the famous “Bone Wars”). Wallace’s book is singularly excellent, and although there are a few flaws, he gives the story a cultural background that is also lacking. Also of great importance is his treatment of Cope’s “ghost”, exhumed by Louie Psihoyos in the lavishly-illustrated book Hunting Dinosaurs. Not to spoil the tale for those who haven’t yet read Wallace’s book, Psihoyos absonded with Cope’s skull, taking the Philadelphian all over the country to meet the likes of Paul Sereno (who identified an absess tooth in Cope’s skull) and Bob Bakker (who boiled pasta and poured it into Cope’s skull to help determine his cranial capacity), all under the auspices of bringing attention to Cope’s “dying wish” to be the type specimen for the human species. Cope never had such a hope, and the body of Linneaus had long been nominated to have the prestige ages ago, and so it seems that Psihoyos either missed something in his research or didn’t do any, Wallace rightly (but fairly) chastizing the National Geographic photographer for undertaking a stutn to shocking that it would be fit for the pages of the Herald that printed Cope and Marsh’s famous fossil fued. Wallace also notes how little society seemed to care for dinosaurs during a time that many paleontologists deem pivotal to our understanding of dinosaurs, O.C. Marsh’s discovery of the toothed Cretaceous birds and a seemingly-straight line of horse evolution (and T.H. Huxley’s visit to discuss these finds) gaining much more coverage than any dinosaur find. In case I have not made a strong enough case, read Wallace’s book; it is a must for understanding the tragic figures that helped form the basis of modern vertebrate paleontology.

I also started a book consisting of essays about the “strip-mining” of American culture called Dumbing Down, and already I am partially disgusted by it. I am not one to ignore problems in our consumer-driven society, Megachurches with their of McDonald’s Drive-Thru and libraries that suffer destruction of many of their books because a local radio station hides money in some of the books as a promotion, but the introductory portions of the book take something of a condescending tone to what they identify as the provincial rabble that has undermined high-culture. Part of this seems to stem from an affinity for bits of “high culture”, a sort of post hoc nostalgia developing that ages past surely must have been more sophisticated and refined than today’s culture of amateurs. From what I can tell there has never been nor ever shall be a “golden age” of refinement, the high-brow and the low-brow constantly existing and harboring greater or lesser amounts of contempt for each other. There are intellectual blessings and curses to every age, and I don’t believe that people are becoming “dumbed down” as much as distracted by a culture that values high-tech gadetry over a good book. The simple mental and cultural capacity to break free from many of the societal strangeholds that we are often warned are choking off blood-flow to our collective brain is present, as ever it has been, and I believe things can be changed, but bemoaning others as stupid, ignorant, and uncultured if they have never read Hamlet or Crime and Punishment is not the way to open minds.

I also will finally have the chance to watch the Planet Earth series in full as it was meant to be; with David Attenborough providing the narration. I’ll probably write up something of a review at some point when I’m finished, but despite what I feel are some ill-written lines of narration, the series is probably the most visually stunning I have ever seen, and I doubt that anyone will be able to watch it and find wonder in nature.

On a different note, I have registed for the 2008 North Carolina Science Blogging Conference coming up in January. I’ll be driving down to arrive on Friday and will be there all day on Saturday, so if you are going to be there let me know so I can at the very least get to say “hello” in person. If you haven’t already registered, or need more information about the event (did I mention that it’s free?), Coturnix (who has used his Herculean blogging and organizational powers to help make the event a reality) has all the links you’ll need.

And don’t forget, if you see a post on here that you especially enjoyed or think is of outstanding merit, please nominate it to be included in the 2007 edition of the blog anthology The Open Laboratory. You can nominate posts by clicking the purple OpenLab 2007 button on the right hand side of this blog, and you can nominate as many as you would like.

That about does it for me for now, although I hope to write something a bit more scientific later on today. If anyone has any topics they’d like me to cover, don’t hesitate to mention it in the comments as I’m a bit dry on subject matter today.

If I had known I would have baked a cake….

31 08 2007

Blog Day 2007

Happy Blog Day everyone! This is the 3rd annual celebration, and in keeping with the wishes set forth by those who’ve spread the word, I’ve picked five blogs that I regularly read and think you should, too. I was quite surprised to have been chosen as one of the five over at A Blog Around the Clock (thanks Coturnix!), and I’m going to carry on the meme in quite the same way by picking 5 of my favorites instead of just 5 “new” blogs. Envelope please…

Catalogue of Organisms – Chris admittedly has “An inordinate fondness for systematics,” and a wide range of interests that would have made E.D. Cope and other earlier naturalists proud. His posts are always well documented and researched, and it’s hard not to learn something new on any given visit. Plus, he was nice enough to tag me with the Thinking Blogger Award for a second time, so this is my way of saying “Thanks!”

Clastic Detritus – Brian is another good friend of mine who, in addition to just acquiring a spiffy new title and moving to wordpress, is the father of the new earth sciences blog carnival The Accretionary Wedge. He is far more well-versed in geology than I could ever hope to be, and I am glad that he is helping to lead the charge to get geo-bloggers more involved on the web.

Prehistoric Pulp – Walt reads ’em so you don’t have to, or rather, Walt reads ’em so you know which ones actually are pretty good so you know where to turn when you’re in the mood for some good paleo-fiction. Walt’s knowledge of the monsters (real and imagined) lurking in the pages of recent literature is encyclopedic, and his is a wonderful and well-written resource.

Thoughts in a Haystack – And I thought I spent a lot of time trying to understand the history of science. I have only recently discovered John’s blog, but it is an absolute treat to read and his writing is brimming with careful research, measured opinion, and an excellent sense of humor. If you’re not reading Thoughts in a Haystack yet, you darn well should be.

The Ethical Paleontologist – Where would I be without Julia? Outside of directing me to other people extremely helpful in my fields and interest and providing plenty of encouragement, Julia writes an excellent blog that ranges from her “Jurassic Garden” to songs about dinosaurs to her current journey to get her PhD. Her blog, simply put, is a must-read.

Also of note: My friend Zach’s blog When Pigs Fly Returns (if for no other reason that his excellent reconstruction of Arizonasaurus, and Pondering Pikaia, which was duly recommended by Coturnix and will likely be on many more lists.

So what are your five commendations for your readers? You can read all the “official rules” at the Blog Day website, but be sure to add a description as to why each of the blogs is so good. Go on, boost some egos and endorse good blogging wherever you may find it.

[Blog Day Technorati Tag]

Friday Meme #1

24 08 2007

Stolen from Molly’s blog (feel free to jump on in!);

Three things in my fridge that define life right now:
1) A jar of Klausen pickle juice, once having contained actual pickles. There are never enough pickles…
2) Watered down 4C Raspberry Iced Tea from powder. I always am liberal with the stuff and then there are all of 4 and 1/2 scoops left (it takes at least 8 for the pitcher), and which point a semi-sweet watery drink often results.
3) Half a carton of eggs, because occasionally at 11 at night I get in the mood for a good fry-up (basic recipe: throw a few strips of bacon, a few eggs, some chopped onions, and a slice of American or Monterey Jack cheese in a pan, cook, slide gooey mess onto plate and enjoy).

Three recent acquisitions:
Erm, outside of books I don’t really buy many things other than gasoline or food. Three books (out of four) that I just ordered yesterday are Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip Mining of American Culture, The Velvet Claw: A Natural History of the Carnivores, and Buffon’s Natural History Of Man, The Globe And Of Quadrapeds, With Additions from Cuvier, Lacipede, and Other Eminent Naturalists.

Three classics I reach for every day:
1) Cherry Coke, when available (even though the current graphics on the can are a bit lame. I saw bring back the black & purple can days)
2) Something by Terry Pratchett. When I’m not reading about science, I’m usually reading about Rincewind or other Discworld characters.
3) My 1991 Chevrolet Cavalier.

My kids right now, in three words or less:
Charlotte: Troublemaker
Chase: Myopic
Beatrice: Acrobat

My sweetie right now, in three words or less:

What’s on my to-do list:
Clean up the desk, finish my uber-post on whales, finish the book I’m reading tonight, write more of my book, print out/read more papers, try to find an affordable desktop computer, get car inspected (it’s only a month overdue…), visit the Philly Zoo before it gets cold, beg and plead with the administration at RU to switch major (it’s not going to be easy), make sure I remember when classes start, etc.

What I do often that relates to the season right now:
This has actually been a rather crummy summer, but just this morning I got up early enough that the light and humidity were just right to make me think I was in Florida, a state I much prefer to NJ (especially since fall and winter are on their way).

What I’m listening to right now:
I actually used to rush out every Tuesday and buy the two or three new punk/emo/indie/ska releases that came out and I had more new music than I knew what to do with. At the present point, though, I don’t remember the last new (or used, for that matter) CD I bought, and I mostly just rifle through mix cd’s I’ve made. Currently I’m in a bit of a 90’s mood though (and end up having the chorus from Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy” stuck in my head for days as a result). This time of year always makes me think about the Nine Days album The Madding Crowd, though, which is a great piece of pop rock for those so inclined.

What I’m worried about right now:
Lack of money now that I can’t work full time, passing Precalc, transferring into a major I like (otherwise being stuck just trying to survive one I’ve lost passion for), dealing with debt, and just about anything dealing with school or money.

Which news stories I’m following right now:
It’s not “real” news, but the hubbub surrounding Expelled is interesting.

What I’m reading right now:
Tonight I’ll finish Where Darwin Meets the Bible, then I’ll finish Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944, and then I hope to read The Descent of the Child and Man Rises to Parnassus before the weekend is out. Altogether it’s about 600 pages of reading, but I think I can do it.

What I’m looking forward to right now:
Um… I don’t really know. There isn’t much coming up that’s particularly exciting as far as I know.

A thought I keep returning to right now:
I’m probably stuck in a academic black hole where I no longer like the program for my major at my school but it’s too late to change. Get ready for disappointment…

One small thing that’s making me happy right now:

This blog, and waking up in the morning to see good comments made by friends I’ve made through spilling my thoughts out here every now and then.

In a “publish or perish” world…

14 08 2007

Rich at evolgen has brought to everyone’s attention a very interesting opinion piece that has recently appeared in the journal Current Biology about how scientific research (and success) is all-too-often dependent on some rather arbitrary numerical statistics (Lawrence PA. 2007. The mismeasurement of science. Curr. Biol. 17: R583-R585. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.06.014). Should the number of citations a paper receives or the sheer number of papers an author’s name appears on determine who gets funding and who does not? While I am still on a very long and winding road to becoming a scientist, the amount of horror stories that I have heard have often made be dubious about a career in academia; I definitely have a deep desire to know more about nature, but I don’t know if I can handle all the bureaucratic B.S. that comes along with it. Fortunately for me that’s a choice that I don’t yet have to make, but I do have to wonder if the current system of publishing and becoming established are truly the best ways to advance our understanding. I may be wrong, but often it seems more about advancing the careers of certain individuals more than anything else.

As I stated, however, I’m a bit far removed from this being that I haven’t even tried to publish anything myself and I’m about as low on the academic totem-pole as one can get. (I have done some research “at the bench” this summer, although I have no idea whether my name will appear on the final product or not.) Still, I am going to try to write up a review paper based upon what I found in my evolution of human evolution post from the other day, although I don’t really know where to start. Gathering the information I need should be no problem at all (that’ll just take time), but as for the rules of writing such a paper, I don’t have the slightest clue.

Just a reminder….

14 08 2007

The 3rd edition of The Boneyard is coming up this Saturday, and it’ll be here at Laelaps for the last time before moving on to When Pigs Fly Returns, The Ethical Paleontologist, microecos, and the Hairy Museum of Natural History this fall. Send those links in to me by Saturday afternoon if you want in, although I’ll do my usual prospecting along the blog-strata to see what valuable specimens I can find.