Friday, September 29, 2006

Today’s Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day is:


As in the Beatles song Glass Onion:

“Fixing a hole in the ocean
Trying to make a dovetail joint-yeah
Looking through a glass onion.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fear is not the Answer

Today I talked with someone about going to Graduate school, which is not really anything new for me these days. I did most of the talking so I cant say that some kind of wisdom was given to me today.

I talked about how for years now I have considered Grad school the answer for me, but really it is just a very long and difficult question. But I listened to myself talk and I listened to myself line up a bunch of reasons why I cant do this and why I wont be successful.

And upon revisiting my Why-I-Cant-Do-This list, I realized that yes the points are clear and valid but since I know the person who wrote that list, I can safely say that the source of all of those well thought out reasons is a deep and limitless ocean of fear and I cannot see the bottom.

So I came upon a resolution tonight-Fear is not a good enough reason not to go to Graduate School. And fear is not a good enough reason to not do anything that you really want to for that matter.

The Perfect Question

I have been thinking lately about asking questions in class. And in my thinking about it way too much I have come to the conclusion that asking a question is an art. Which makes it all the more difficult for me to relax and just casually speak in class.

When asking the perfect question, we dont want to sound ignorant of the facts, but want to collect them into a bundle and wrap them in a cloth of the perfect level of understanding and inquiry. As if to say, I know what I am talking about I just want some clarification for the connections I am making in my head, which are new and exciting.

And connections are key. Connect your knowledge of one thing to something else that is known and then ask.

Maybe I will muster up the gusto for this soon.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Black Eye, Black Belt and a Smile

Joe returned from Venezuela with a black eye and his black belt and I dont think I have seen him so moved by an experience in my life. He was given his black belt unexpectedly (and presumably the black eye was unexpected too) in a ceremony with 150 people present. He did not know a word of Spanish going down, but managed to charm the Venezuelan people with his intercontinental charisma.

We stumbled upon a Venezuelan restaurant where we ate together tonight and caught up on the time that passed.

It was completely perfect and spontaneous... just like Joe.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Speech! Speech!

I went to a lovely wedding last night and the Bride’s father read a quote by Leo Tolstoy that I thought was very worth mentioning again:

“What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility”

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Clarity and Confusion

Interesting things I am learning about in class, which are confusing me and making me think:

1) A fossil hominin is found and dated to, let say 3 million years old, then one is found and dated to 6 million. The date alone is only a very minor part of how its relationship to other extinct species is inferred. The 3 million year old specimen can have features that are more ancestral than the 6 million year old one. Morphological features do not change uniformly over time or through lineages, and human evolution is far from linear. Interesting and confounding.

2) A novel feature in a fossil may enable it to be grouped with other fossils that share the same new feature, and differentiate it from an older more ancestral group that does not show this structure. But then, that same new feature is ancestral relative to an even more contemporary form. There is much discussion in Paleoanthrology about shared novel, or as they say “derived” features, being the crux of inferring species relationships of extinct hominins. And I just wanted to put it in words that, like most things, it is all relative.

3) After reading the material it is clear that scientists are splitting hairs to determine the best species category for these extinct ancestors. But I was thinking the other day that grouping living organisms into species is possible and obviously practical, but what of these extinct species relationships? Time is a factor that throws some current species concepts on its head and might it suffice to say that these were all human ancestors, one way or another, and to form one species distiction for all extinct hominins, like “Homo extinctus” and end it there. But I suppose that would be maximally uninteresting and would put a lot of hard working people out of work.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dazzled by Mystery

There is a certain kind of respect and awe that can only exist when something or someone is unknown to us. The mind can craft and assign an enchanted forest of qualities to something that is not fully explored. It is both wonderful and terrible to find out what something or someone really is.

New Fossil Discovery!

Very exciting paleoanthropological discovery in Ethiopia!

click on title above for link.

Yesterday’s Word of the Day


As in: Marooned on an island.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

BUtterfield 8

My phone died last night and I had to use a pay phone. It smelled so bad that I didnt have to imagine the bacteria that was covering it because they practically came out and did a Busby Berkeley number to announce their presence.

I bent down to press the buttons and heard the off key whimper of the notes. The receiver was so large that I felt like I was at the foot of the stairs in “Its A Wonderful Life” making some kind of frantic 1940s phone call. I looked off into the orange streetlight as the other line rang, sparkling with static.

It rang and rang and I wondered how many people had used the phone I was on and what kinds of things were said into it, how many I love yous or I hate yous or meet me at the pier I have your money, its in a paper bag that says thank you for your partronage?

Pay phones are a dying species. Things that die out or fall out of favor in our lifetime sometimes make me a little sad. Like a negleted worn teddy bear that stares into your soul with its black bead eyes and urges you to remember all the good times you had together as you stuff it in a plastic bag to store in the attic. But maybe we wont miss pay phones in all their odoriferous glory, but there was something nice and nostalgic and urgent feeling in the call I made last night on it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Miss Understanding

Had another class today, one of the very first things mentioned by our distinguished professor was that the evolution of ideas in the field of paleoanthropology is very important to take into consideration and learn, much like what I said 2 posts ago on the blog (see “Time Change.”) It was nice to hear that something I had thought was then being said by the professor, but it all leads to the same place...more things to read.

Also, I have realized that the rift between understanding something and really knowing something can be large and deep. When I go to these lectures the professors are so articulate that when they explain concepts it is like butter melting on an English Muffin. It goes down easily and makes you feel good and crunchy all over. So, I leave the class feeling okay, but then realize when someone asks me how it was that I can hardly repeat a word of it with any facility. So I understand the material, because of the great professors...but I dont know it at all. Absolutely must work on reducing this rift.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Poplar Science

The first entire genome of a tree was sequenced, the regal and Monet adored Poplar. The genetic information may aid in turning trees into better fuels, how exciting!

click on title above for article.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Time Change

When I looked over at the field of science from my high isolated turret of design, I saw certainty in the distance. I saw facts as hard as igneous rocks and astonishingly beautiful intricate truths lit by the earth’s one faithful moon.

As I approach the second meeting of my Paleoanthpology class and sift through the piles of papers assigned I am clouded by the realization that nothing is true or static. Our first class showed that the organization of species relationships to be a controversial and ever changing structure. Now I am reading about the Geologic time scale ( Jurassic, Triassic, Precambrian etc) and am learning that there is debate there too.

“Among all the variables behind human evolution, none is more crucial than time” is the first line of Chapter 2 of my book and what could not be more true is that time is not only the framework within which our species has evolved physiologically and culturally, but time is also the crucial ingredient that forces ideas to change.

I wonder where Paleoanthropology will be in 30 years?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Boiling and Evaporating

I have gotten extremely angry about a few things lately, like blood vessel popping frustration wanting to move mountains with my rage. But I held back my anger and didnt do a thing. I sat there so still that butterflies could have landed on me in peaceful respose while the hidden lava bolied inside of me.

What I havent figured out yet is one really strong for not unleashing anger, or really weak?

Monday, September 11, 2006

From Fossils to Fashion

I went to my first Paleoanthropology class yesterday. Before the class I was as nervous as a young gazelle wandering through a pack of hungry lions. Once I arrived I calmed down a bit, the professors seem friendly and enthusiastic but still quite intimidatingly knowledgeable.

One professor went to get a piece of chalk out of a narrow deep cup and remarked “you have to be a Daubentonia to get this chalk out”, and it took me a minute, but then I laughed. He was referring to the primate called an Aye-Aye who has one strange long thin finger for the purpose of extracting termites from a tree. So this is the kind of geek humor that goes down in these classes, it is kind of charming if you get it.

After class was over and Joe and I went to the Marc Jacobs fashion show for Fall Fashion week. Joe built the runway and set.
The set was beautiful and lit in a magical way. The music was Pachelbel's canon, which contributed to its surreal dreamscape feel. The clothes were interesting, the shoes looked uncomfortable, the models walked like robots. The show lasted about 25 minutes if that, very short especially considering the work that went into it. The people around were elitist and strange and I felt out of place in my Target sweater.

What a weird day I had and I rummaged around for commonality between the two events. The common ground is passion for what you see as purpose and humans are the focus in both. Also, both groups of people are so deeply immersed in their very narrow, specific world. But mainly the connection that I saw is that the right person’s opinion can grow into a crowd of hungry supporters, both in science and fashion. Its just one person’s idea of what is right or what is beautiful.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cross to Wear

He wore the cross around his neck for 4 years in WWII. When he died, several years after the war, she wanted him to be buried with it. The funeral home did not allow anyone to be buried with jewelry on, so she took the gold cross that hung around her husband’s neck and she put in on. She wore it proudly and sorrowfully for over 40 years.

Gold and gleaming and on a delicate chain, it always hung outside her shirt. It reminded her of him. He was a milliner and an Italian. And according to my Great-Aunt he was as equally courageous as he was charismatic. She believed that his cross shielded her from harm, like his hand placed always over her heart.

My Great-Aunt broke her hip the other day and was rushed to the hospital and then subsequently shuffled from room to bleak and lonely room and stripped of her clothes. She speaks with a charming French accent but can be as virulent as a scorpion with her quick wit. She is 96. People like to write her off as “confused” because it is easier to cope with her difficult personality.

I went to see her the other day in the hospital and she is in pain physically, but not as much pain as she seems to be emotionally. Tears welled up in her already watery old gray eyes. The hospital staff lost her cross. It is nowhere.

This made me awfully sad. There is a blemish on the orb of sentimentality and old romanticism that embraces our blue earth.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Asymmetrical Spectacular

The other day I wore two different socks. It was out of necessity but not by accident. By the end of the day, I successfully convinced myself that it worked.

At my job we are required to wear closed toed shoes, so it always makes for some doofy looking outfits when I decide to wear a skirt, but then put on socks and my big blue and orange sneakers. (Those sneakers are so damn comfortable though, the comfort alone gives me confidence, who needs style.)

So the other day I had on a skirt, my sneakers and striped socks, they were different. The stripes were thick on the left one, but thin on the right.

I think someone noticed.

Fiction Friday Hiatus

Due to an increasingly busy schedule I am going to have to put Fiction Fridays on hold for a while, but please stay tuned, because they will be back! For now, they will be replaced with a normal post, just the facts.

It has been nice to write a story from a different person’s (or guinea pig’s) perspective each week, it helps me to understand people (and guinea pigs) and their curious ways, even if they are fictional.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

Daily Distinction

I think it is so interesting how we all look slightly different each day. Hair may be done differently, new clothes hopefully, face puffy because of last nights sushi, eyes one day older, new scratch on face because of the incident. Sleep transforms us each night.

I once saw this website where someone took a photograph of themselves each day for a year, it was a good idea.

This subtle daily variation adds a little unexpected spark to seeing the same people day in and day out, even ourselves.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Super Heros

Yesterday on the subway I sat across from two young men. They were friends and they were dorks. I observed them talking to one another, hopping from obscure movie reference to talk of computers and so on. They were both overweight with bad posture and wore loose out of style clothing and one had a bag with patches sewn on. One was more talkative and animated than the other, the other was more slouchy and cynical.

The funny thing was they kept arguing with each other about every single topic that was raised. I liked watching them, they were the type of angry awkward boys who sifted through the world hunting for authenticity in things, and sort of hated even their closest friends.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

People Love

I love people who love people. And I dont just mean people who are social and have the ability to talk to others with ease, but people who truly and authentically appreciate the diversity of humans and delight in the simple differences of strangers.

I am lucky to have a few friends who have this amazing quality, and of course Joe does too. It nourishes me. These people see expressive character in everyone and have the gentle assumption that all people are good, yet motivated by a different god. These people are constantly dazzled by the medley of humanity and may flash a winsome smile when describing the details of another person.

There is no looking down on the man who lives out of his car or the fumbling waiter, but there is noticing his slight accent and wispy haired innocence or his whimsical bouncing gait.

I think these people lovers have it all figured out. Life never ceases to be interesting and all of the contempt that springs from misunderstanding differences of ideas or appearance is replaced with celebration.