I think my brain is full

6 10 2007

I just walked in the door from my long day at NYU (I woke up at 5:30 AM to make sure I made the train) and it was definitely worth the trip. The presentations were very interesting, even if I didn’t entirely agree with everything that was said. Unfortunately I have to run off again, but here’s a preview of some of the topics mentioned today that I’ll write some more about when I get a chance;

– Olive & Yellow Baboon Hybridization

– Monkeys that use their tails as tripods

– The role of populations and demographics in evolution

– The elusive Cross River Gorilla

– Alan Walker’s spear-throwing “fantasy”

– Non-adaptive speciation events (?)

I mostly remember the topics that made me go “I don’t think that’s right” more than anything else, but it definitely was a very informative conference and I’m glad I went. Tomorrow I’ll probably be away from the computer again until the afternoon and then I’ll be off to see the Walking With Dinosaurs Live show before it closes, but I’m hoping to have my new blog up and running for the beginning of the week (with lots of juicy new material, plus some older re-polished gems).

It’s going to be a long weekend in NC

5 10 2007

I know I plug the upcoming NC Science Blogging Conference quite a bit (if you haven’t registered yet, get on it!), but I am really excited to be going. I’m so excited, in fact, that I’m planning on leaving at about 2 AM so I can get down there with plenty of time to visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences the day before the conference (a Friday). Even better, the museum has dinosaurs in! The AMNH traveling exhibition Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries will be at the museum, and I’ll definitely appreciate it now that I’ve got a little more background than when I first saw it. I definitely want to make sure I visit Willo and the Acrocanthosaurus skeleton, too, although I wish I had more time during that weekend so I could stop to see the Giganotosaurus mount and Cryolophosaurus skull at the Maryland Science Center on the way to or from NC.

Still, I really am looking forward to the conference, and remember, if you’ve seen something here on Laelaps that you especially enjoyed, please submit it for consideration to the next edition of The Open Laboratory (see the purple tab on the right sidebar).

Finally, the BIG news…

4 10 2007

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had some big news regarding the future of Laelaps. The notion that things were soon going to change caused a little bit of speculation, but despite my desire to tell everyone the news, I felt it best to keep things under my hat until my new plans were fully developed. This brings us to the good news and the bad news;

The bad news; Laelaps, as it now appears on WordPress.com, will no longer exist. Extinction is an unpredictable process, and so it has claimed this blog.

The good news; It’s really a pseudoextinction because Laelaps has evolved, and soon you’ll be able to watch it adapt in it’s new surroundings over at ScienceBlogs! Thanks to the support of many excellent bloggers (and the ever-increasing amounts of traffic and comments from readers like you), a prediction made by my friend Chris Harrison last February has now come to fruition and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

It’ll take me a little while to get the new blog up and running (I have a Soils & Water test this afternoon so I can’t just stay home and blog, as much as I would like to), but soon I’ll post an announcement when Laelaps has been sufficiently acclimated to it’s new habitat and is ready for viewing.

Blog withdrawal

3 10 2007

This week I’m out and about more than I’m in, and I haven’t been able to blog as much as I would like (especially since I’m out petsitting at a place where there is no internet). It is good to be disconnected a bit, but I can’t lie and say I don’t wonder what my stats are or if anyone left comments when I’ve been away for some time. I think the following cartoon Julia recently shared sums it up well, I think;


There’s no reason to fret, though; I’ll still be around and be putting up new posts daily, but if you really can’t wait for my to get back to my obsessive blogging habits (or even if you can), be sure to check out Darren’s latest post about yet another sail-backed dinosaur.

Back to business

30 09 2007

Hello everyone, I’m back! Tracey and I had a good day hiking around Bear Mountain and staying the night at Beaver Pond, although I’m pretty worn out (I think I stained my right leg a bit and I got about 2 hours sleep last night). Still, the trails were pretty nice and I was able to find some mammal remains (one canine, one molar, one rib, one leg bone, and one jaw (with premolars and molars intact) from a small omnivore that I’ll look over in more detail later), so it was a pleasant trip overall. I did notice that the latest edition of The Boneyard did not go up yesterday as planned, however, and after I take a brief nap I’ll work on getting all the links together and posting it here.

Into the woods…

29 09 2007

Although I don’t normally write as much over the weekend as I do during the week, Laelaps is going to be particularly bare this weekend. Tracey and I are going to be out camping, celebrating her birthday, but I’ll probably be back on Sunday afternoon (with plenty of new photos to share).

Update on the lectures

27 09 2007

Just because some of you had asked how they were going, I thought I’d write a quick progress-report on the lectures that I had to give this week. Tuesday’s lecture went fairly well (although a little bit faster than I had intended it to go). While some of the students didn’t seem especially interested while I was giving the talk, I got some great questions afterwards about Lamarck, endosymbionts, and other matters. I expected a more low-key reaction, however, just because the lecture was more historical in nature (but it seemed that I gave the students a closer look at Darwin’s life and his scientific accomplishments).

Today I’m giving my ID/creationism lecture, which will be a lot more fun. I was able to find a handful of videos to download (a Creation Museum commercial, a Kent Hovind ad, the Simpsons evolution couch intro from a few months back, the Colbert Report Behe interview, an Inherit the Wind clip, Ray Comfort’s banana mishap, etc.) so outside of providing commentary I’ll be able to let the creationists speak for themselves to a certain extent. I also threw in a few more jokes and illustrations, so while it needs some work I think today will be a more more fun and interesting lecture than Tuesday’s. Many thanks to Peter McGrath of The Beagle Project as well, who has supplied me with some wonderful photos to use in some future lectures and on Laelaps.

I definitely enjoy giving lectures, though, and I certainly hope to deliver one for Darwin Day in February, that is if I can get enough Rutgers faculty interested enough to join in. I’ve got a lot on my plate as it is at the moment, but I hope that winter break will give me enough of a respite to get something organized, although I am much looking forward to January’s Science Blogging Conference, as well.

Minor note…

27 09 2007

Sometime during the night this blog passed the 100,000 views mark. Many thanks to all the visitors, especially regulars, who helped make this blog what it has become (although this is not the end-point in the evolution of Laelaps).

Tuesday Morning Notes

25 09 2007

So many papers, so little time… Thus far I’ve had a relatively busy start to the semester, especially in terms of having to prepare and give presentations. Every week I have to team up with another student from my Topics in African Prehistory class and present a summation of a few selected papers, and then there’s the new stuff coming out in the journals and what I need to read for my blog posts. Obviously schoolwork gets the priority (expect something about the Mt. Assirik chimpanzees tonight or tomorrow), but I am absolutely inundated by literature as of late.

I also will be giving my Darwin lecture this afternoon, which should be easy enough. I don’t know how much of an interest the students will show, but I’m sure the presentation will come off without any problems. I also want to start planning some talks for Darwin Day (it’s never early to start getting ready) in February, and I really wouldn’t mind being a TA or even teaching a course on evolution if I had the chance. For now, though, I’ll continue to take whatever I can get as far as making presentations, which reminds me I need to resume work on my human evolution review paper.

My trip to Haddonfield this past weekend was a bit of a bust, but I’m going to try to make it down to Big Brook this weekend (or the week after next) in the hopes of having some better luck. Shark teeth and bits of mosasaurs and plesiosaurs show up pretty frequently (Hadrosaurus and Dryptosaurus remains being rarer at the site), but even if I come up with nothing it’ll be a more productive adventure.

I’ve still got posts on juvenile sauropods and the history of Tyrannosaurus cooking, although both are going to require a lot of work and will probably have to wait until I have a weekend (or other time when I have 4-6 hours of free time to work). Even though such posts take a long time to construct, I do enjoy writing them up; I learn a lot more by trying to ingrate various resources to reveal the big picture and presenting it than just reading papers on my own. While such mega-posts have been relatively frequent as of late, I’ll try to keep up with new studies & stories as well, especially given the fact that not everyone has time to read through what I write.

In terms of books, things have slowed down a bit lately. Over the summer I was able to get through a new book every 2-3 days, but now it’s taking a bit longer. Still, I carry books with me everywhere and try to get through a few pages on the bus or before class, and I am definitely enjoying Adrian Desmond’s The Hot Blooded Dinosaurs. It’s a bit dated, but Desmond has an appreciation for the history of the debate as well as for the science, and it has plenty of illustrations to help drive home the points made in the book. I’ve really only started it so I can’t say much about the work as a whole, but the first two chapters were very enjoyable, even if I had heard the stories about Cuvier, Owen, Hawkins, mosasaurs, Iguanodon, etc. a thousand times over.

For now I need to finish up getting ready for the lecture, however, but (as I stated above) I should have something up on chimpanzees that use tools and live near open habitats later this evening.

8 things about me[me] returns

23 09 2007

Mark, of The Divine Afflatus fame, is back, and upon the occasion of his triumphant return has tagged me with the “8 Random Facts” meme. Although I was tagged by Bora back in June, I figured I might as well give it another go, especially since I would hope that there are least 8 more things of potential interest about me.

1) My wife and I drove down to Haddonfield, NJ today to visit the site where Hadrosaurus foulkii was discovered. I’m planning an uber-post about it’s discovery so I won’t go into those details here, but I have to say I was extremely disappointed with the “park.” After driving about an hour, we made our way through the suburban sprawl to a dead end, a commemorative plaque plastered to a rock sitting right across the street from a newly-built house. Thinking there must be something more to see, Tracey and I made our way down the embankment to the fetid, mosquito-infested and trash-ridden streambed below. While the Cretaceous marl was easy to locate, the only thing of note we found was a discarded Sears credit card. Further exploration was blocked by vast pools of stagnant water and the fact that the “park” was a patch of land surrounded by private property, the monotonous whir of a nearby lawnmower letting us know we were practically in someone’s backyard. Rather unfitting, overall, for one of the most important sites in the history of paleontology.

2) I heard the New Found Glory cover of Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking” yesterday and I can’t get it out of my head (trust me, the NFG version is much improved over the original). The song can be found on the band’s new album From the Screen to Your Stereo II.

3) Although I would have normally waited for the paperback, I purchased the newest Terry Pratchett book, Making Money on Friday and have been reading it aloud to my wife. Although we somewhat fell out of the tradition, for the first 6 months or so of our marriage I’d read some Terry Pratchett to her every night before bed.

4) When I was in preschool I once played a Stegosaurus pitched in battle with Allosaurus during the ever-popular “Dinosaur Night.” While I was expected to lose, at the close of the confrontation I pleaded my case to the parents on scientific grounds that Allosaurus wouldn’t dare try and take down such a large and spiny critter, but my protest ended up being in vain. At least I got some dinosaur-shaped cereal out of it. (My later high school stage appearances included Eugene in Grease!, Mr. Kraler in the Diary of Anne Frank, and Father Drobney in Don’t Drink the Water).

5) Many people once had imaginary friends, but I had an imaginary enemy. Named “Snuff,” he was a demonic, shortened version of Sesame Street’s Mr. Snuffleupagus, and if touched by his trunk you would become paralyzed (and subsequently eaten). You know that high pitched whine you sometimes hear when a television is on even if you can’t see it? I thought that was the sound of his impending arrival, and I once heard it while riding my tricycle in the driveway. I abandoned my vehicle, which my mother ran over while backing out of the driveway, and although I did get in a bit of trouble spare parts were found and all ended well.

6) During the last year of high school and the first years of college I used to frequent the local clubs, seeing a punk/emo/ska band just about every other weekend. The first show I ever went to was for a local group called Shades Apart (they had a song, “Stranger by the Day,” on the American Pie soundtrack), although they are long defunct. The place that I saw them and many other bands, The Birch Hill, was torn down a few years ago, and now most of the shows are at The Starland Ballroom (although I haven’t been there in at least a year and a half).

7) Up until recently I wanted to study marine ecology at Rutgers, specifically what was happening to sharks off the NJ coast (no one seemed to be studying it, given the funding cuts to the EPA, DEP, and Fish & Wildlife in the state). When I told one of my professors about this he replied “What are you ever going to do with that? No one studies sharks” (which was the entire point, from my perspective). Frustrated with the academic wall I kept running into, I ended up taking a course in paleontology & “evolution and geologic time,” which definitely helped establish my current line of interest. Overall, I think I’m better for it.

8 ) This blog, as you and I know it, will soon become extinct. I know I’m using on of the oldest tricks in the book and that I’m terrible because I’m going to leave you all hanging (at least for a little while), but some big changes will soon be going into effect. I think you all will be pleasantly surprised, but for now mum’s the word. In time all will be revealed, but I’ll still be writing regularly until I can divulge the secrets in my possession.

So there you have it, 8 little tidbits of information that may or may not have replaced something more important that you were supposed to remember (i.e. the location of the car keys). Everyone who immediately comes to mind as far as tagging goes has already been tagged previously, so I’ll leave this one open ended; if you feel compelled to write, just leave a comment and I’ll set up the links. And now to finish up the scraps of reading I have left over…