Tag Archives: books

BV-worthy new exhibit


The California Academy of Sciences has long been beloved by the author of BV, figuring in her elementary school field trips, and, more recently, looming large in her consciousness as an example of stunning sustainable architecture. And a friend is employed there, I am proud to say, as a plant taxonomist– though, traitorous wench that she is, she will soon be abandoning us all to pursue a PhD in Chemistry on the east coast.

Pah. stupid PhD in chemistry. Stupid east coast.

In any case, If you would like to see an exact cast of Ida, the  Darwinius masillae that is a distant cousin of all of us today, you can do it at this exhibit. You can also learn about extreme adaptations (neat!) , reproduction (wink wink, nudge nudge) , and extinction (boo!).

Personally, the author of BV is excited to learn that the state fossil of California, Smilodon Fatalis, will be on display. She is also not a little bemused to discover that california *has* a state fossil.

which led the author on a rather amusing little digression into internet research-land, where she discovered the following:

California has the expected emblems, that is, a  state…

BIRD: California Valley Quail
ANIMAL: California Grizzly Bear
TREE: California Redwood

as well as a

and flag (social studies history reports come flooding back to some of us) 

But is also has a state…

FOSSIL: Smilodon Fatalis (sabertooth tiger, see above)
INSECT: California dog-face Butterfly (well, it’s mother thinks it’s beautiful)
FISH: California Golden Trout
MARINE FISH: Garibaldi
MARINE MAMMAL: California Grey whale
REPTILE: the Desert Tortoise

not to mention:

Gold Rush ghost town
 Silver rush ghost town
military museum
Fife and drum band (very cool)
Prehistoric artifact
soil (SOIL!?!?! we have an official  SOIL. inconceivable)
tall ship
and theater.

And a poet laureate to write about all of ’em. (Which she doesn’t, at present. She seems to write a lot about love and death and architecture. But that’s a snap judgement)   

Seriously. Don’t believe me about the soil? look here. And expect a California series on BV in the near future.

sick of my rambling and want to read more about the exhibit? Read the articles from SFGATE and/or SFAppeal.

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Filed under academia, endangered species, extinct species, human behavior

Chimpanzees: Will F*%@ for Meat

Chimps- mother nature's "working girls"

Chimps- mother nature's "working girls"

The BBC reported yesterday that a strange new facet of primate behavior has been documented amongst chimpanzees living in the Tai forest reserve, in Ivory Coast: the females will get down more often with males who share their grub.  Cristina Gomes, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, reports that this is a win-win proposition for the primates. “By sharing,” she claims,  “the males increase the number of times they mate, and the females increase their intake of calories.”  The author of BV is unsurprised that the “meat for sex hypothesis” (its real name) has been confirmed: the chimps’ priorities seem familiar enough from the human dating world, though *some* human females prefer shiny baubles to hanks of raw meat.

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Filed under Phobia-inducing, rated NC17, the strange and the beautiful, Uncategorized

Invasive Species/ Critical Habitat Alert

La Liseuse, by Fragonard, depicts the romance between book and reader.

La Liseuse, by Fragonard, depicts the romance between book and reader.

Will libraries, which have been sanctuary to books (libri) since they evolved on earth, slowly be replaced with  genus “kindle,” bloodless, soulless creatures of invention? Will paper and cloth-bound books themselves be replaced? Some laud the efficiency and convenience of this new species, which is designed to fulfil books’ roles in the intellectual end entertainment ecosystems, while others are skeptical as to whether these markedly uncuddly gizmos can replace the book as a member of the family, and, more ominously,  whether these  “kindles” might in fact reverse  the democratizing effects of the printing press.

Where books used to roam free, the Kindle, a devious invention, threatens to destroy their habitat

While books used to roam free in home libraries, the Kindle threatens to destroy their habitat

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Breaking News: latest addition to list of endangered species

Shall we sing a requiem for a dying breed? Genus Newspaperus Printae , which long sat at the top of the media food chain, has been in a state of gradual decline for the last decade. The situation is now critical, as the genus has been dealt a resounding blow by the pending extinction of several of its prominent species. California and Colorado are, thus far, the habitats  in greatest danger of losing their representative species. Conservationsists wonder, is it too late to save the Newspapers? And if it is, with what shall we line our birdcages? 


The Chronicle, first published in 1865, is unlikely to recover.

The Chronicle, first published in 1865, is unlikely to recover.

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Filed under academia, endangered species, extinct species, Phobia-inducing, Uncategorized

Dissertation Elf

There have long been tales of the wise old owls who swoop through the windows of sleeping doctoral students in teh wee hours of the morning to finish their dissertations: new photos suggest that these stories may have basis in fact.
There have long been tales of the wise old owls who swoop through the windows of sleeping doctoral students in the wee hours of the morning to finish their dissertations.

Elf Owls (micathrene whitneyi), the world’s smallest owls, are often spotted perched near lit windows at night; it is generally assumed that they prefer these spots becasue the light draws moths, which then become easy prey. Stories about Elf owls sneaking into open windows to peck wildly at computer keys, leaving finished dissertation chapers behind,  have long been considered urban legend. Graduate students, however, often exibit a child-like belief in these stories, and the owls have become a sort of santa-claus figure for those with writer’s block. A number of graduate students from UC Irvine have reportedly banded together in a  cult worshipping the “Dissertation Elves,” as they have taken to calling the owls. The University declined to respond, stating only that they are aware that the pressures of dissertation work can be overwhelming,* but that they do not discriminate against any religious practice, as dictated by the Nondiscrimination Policy Statement for University of California Publications Regarding Student-Related Matters.

* a recent email from the UCI “grad mailer” made these concerns clear, stating that  “January is Graduate and Professional Student Mental Health and Wellness Month! Happy New Year! The Graduate Division wishes you all the best in 2009 and we hope that this year is a positive and rewarding one for you!” Students from UCI reported taking offence at the overuse of exclamation points, and noted that they would continue worshiping Dissertation Elves rather than attending the workshops, as positive results seem more likely to result from Owl-worship.


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The anti-book worm

This image of the anti-book worm is still being authenticated by parasitologists

This image of the anti-book worm is still being authenticated by parasitologists


Anti-book worms (cestoda antibibliographia) are a new discovery similar to the amoeba Naegleria fowleri (the brain eating parasite). Despite its name, the anti-book worm enters the host through contact with the old books in which the worms incubate;* anti-book worms enter the host trough tiny lesions in the scalp thought to be caused when readers touch the infested books and then tear their hair. From point of entry anti-book worms travel rapidly to the brain, where they anchor themselves in Brocca’s area (responsible for language production) and Wernicke’s area (where language processing occurs). Here the worms impede dissertation progress: hence the name “anti-book” worm. Increasingly, parasitologists are demonstrating that seventh-year dissertation-level students are in fact suffering from the effects of cestoda antibibliographia infestation, and should not be blamed for exceeding normative time.
 * Concerned parents should note that these are typically books from those obscure sections of libraries and private collections used only by graduate students; a recent rash of cases amongst students of literature and literary theory suggests that books in those areas may be particularly implicated in such cases.

  Cf. http://www.cdc.gov/Ncidod/dpd/parasites/listing.htm

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