Friday, February 26, 2010


So, I was about to post this new song by Lady Gaga, which I really like, called Speechless, when I thought I'd head over to Pharygula and see what was new for today...

Well, what I saw left me speechless, and not in the mournful, love-dove way of the song above.

The song is nice because it showcases Lady Gaga's very beautiful voice, and talent on the piano.

The vajazzling is ridiculous, impractical, an enormous money-suck and kick in the gut to a woman's self-esteem. Now, to be beautiful, I'm expected to wax my pubic hair, and bedazzle it, like some early 90's sweatshirt? Uh, thanks, but no thanks.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Now this is happy monday!

This weekend we went snowboarding (my first time and Scott's second).

It. Was. Awesome.

I am a little banged and bruised today, but really looking forward to going back again soon, if it stays cold enough.

I thought it was funny that our instructor mentioned that there was nothing in the evolutionary history of humans that prepared us to slide down a hill of ice on a thin board, and have to lean the ways we do (on a snowboard) to keep from falling all the time.

After a day on the bunny hill I can enthusiastically agree with him. Every part of me wanted to lean the "wrong" way, which led to quite a few spills, but after 3 or so hours, I was finally getting it down. For more pictures :).

Because everything's bigger in Texas...

apparently even gullibility.

But maybe gullible isn't the right word. It's difficult to fathom why nearly 1/3 of the people in Texas would think that humans and dinosaurs lived together. Do we blame Jurrasic Park? Do we blame the education system? Those in charge of the education system? Creationsists?

Now, again, is blame really the right word?

I am especially concerned with what I, as a scientist and as a citizen, can do to encourage general inquiry, and promote both scientific education and knowledge.

Dinosaurs did not eat people. Why? Because modern humans did not exist at the same time as dinosaurs. There is a fountain of paleontological, archaeological and anthropological evidence for this. But, throwing around big words like this just isn't as flashy as showing a picture of a person with a dinosaur.

Maybe people want to believe that, if they had only been born a few million years earlier, they could have had a pet dinosaur (Danny and the Dinosaur?), or they want to imagine cavemen flying a Pterodactyl. Are our imaginations too big for our collective rational brains to handle??

I don't think so. I think that scientific evidence shows us so much more than my puny imagination. Science helps us discover things we never even considered. That's the problem; generally, our imagination of what could have been is limited by what we know to be true now.

I'm so glad I get to learn new things all the time. Now, I just need to help other people want to learn more!

Happy Monday?

Is Israel the new Texas? It seems like they're aspiring to be...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Three a week? what was I thinking?

I suppose it is good that I've been so busy that thinking three posts a week is a little excessive.

But, at the time it seemed like a good idea, so I'll try to keep up with it, at least for the first week. :)

I'm in the process of learning how to ask for money. Yep, I'm writing a fellowship application. This is an internal Penn State fellowship application, so the competition isn't as high as for some of the national (and international) fellowships, but the pressure is still on, because they only award one.

I'm finding it particularly difficult to write my cover letter. I realize now that a certain amount of time needs to be put into learning how to sell oneself. It is so hard! You need to find a nice way to say, "I am awesome, but I want you to come to that conclusion without me having to tell you outright how awesome I am, which would defeat the purpose because then I'd just be a conceited jerk."

So many tips and templates and examples. I like this short description/introduction, but there is a lot of material to work with out there.

Also, here's another example that I liked, before finding the example above:

The difficulty is that cover letters depend so much on the field you're in. So, with too much information, and a too little experience, I will go ahead and write this cover letter, and let you know how it turns out in the end.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

So, we're a little past new year's, but I always thought it was silly to only make resolutions once a year.

So, now that I can easily access my blog, I've decided to make a resolution of three posts a week, and, in addition, I want to try an nail down my focus here. Every good blog needs a focus, and, like the rest of my life, I seem to lack the ability to focus on one thing for an sustained period of time (unless it is really captivating). I am getting super-focused on my research right now, so maybe that is a good place to start.

I'm also happy to take suggestions for a focus (however broad or narrow)?

And, in line with my every-changing interests, here's how to become a ninja, t-shirt style.

Friday, February 12, 2010

the need for speed?

I was just getting excited for the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics, tonight, in Vancouver, Canada, and went to look up the schedule.

I'm a little nervous now, because already several people have crashed during training on the luge, and a 21-year old athlete from Georgia (the country) died after flying off the track. The track is supposed to be one of the fastest in years (an Austrian luger hits 96mph in practice), but it seems quite dangerous also, knocking people unconscious, and injuring several others...maybe we don't need to go that fast?

Who knew it was such a pain to switch email accounts

It's taken awhile, but I've finally found instructions to update my blogger with my new email account. This way I don't have to log out of one email and login to another anytime I want to update my blog - post should be coming more frequently now!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

how do you like your placebo?

This is super-cool. I would never have thought of comparing two placebo treatments, and the results are astounding.

I think, also, it is wonderful what we can learn from these placebo-placebo tests: That it really can and does make a difference what circumstances there are during treatment.

Friday, February 5, 2010

sloth (not just a deadly sin anymore)

I've been spending the past few days researching the sloth for my current project, so it is a very happy coincidence that this set of photos showed up: a new side to the sloths of Panama.

I am including Choloepus hoffmanni (one of the two-toed sloths) in my current research project because its genome was recently sequenced, and now I need to find out various life history traits about this species.

I have had a heck of a time discerning what their mating pattern and testis mass are, so I think I might email the people who took the pictures above to see if they have any estimates. Unlike a lot of mammals, but not completely unusual, sloths have internal testis that do not descend completely. This can make it more invasive to collect and measure testis mass.

They are pretty solitary species, like orangutans, which makes me inclined to think their mating pattern is monogamous (meaning only that a female mates with only one male during ovulation, not that they mate for life), but given the new picture evidence of how quickly they can move, it would be nice to confirm.