Tag Archives: dissertation

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

 song
 seal
 motto
colors
nickname
flower
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:

 gemstone
Gold Rush ghost town
 Silver rush ghost town
grass
military museum
mineral
Fife and drum band (very cool)
Prehistoric artifact
rock
soil (SOIL!?!?! we have an official  SOIL. inconceivable)
tall ship
tartan
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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Dissertation Owls Asleep on the Job

Folkes, while the dissertation elves, tiny little owls that creep into grad students’ bedrooms to madly type pages whilst the tortured souls sleep, are on furlough,  I have been working furiously on my thesis. The result? A certain lack of Beastliness. And vocabularity.

This will be remedied shortly, just as soon as the Muse goes on strike again, as she (the fickle bitch) is wont to do.

– sj

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Money Might Not, But Barnacle Geese Do (grow on trees)

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 Source: British Library Images Online Copyright Copyright 2004 British Library / Used by permission Manuscript description British Library, Harley MS 4751, Folio 36r

What medieval-inspired bestiary would be complete without the Barnacle Goose?  According to Sir John Mandeville, who wrote in the 14th century CE, this fantastic creature is–or was– a species of goose that grows on trees. Not in trees, mind you. On trees.

In his Travels, Sir John writes that

 I told them of as great a marvel to them, that is amongst us, and that was of the Bernakes. For I told them that in our country were trees that bear a fruit that become birds flying, and those that fell in the water live, and they that fall on the earth die anon, and they be right good to man’s meat. And hereof had they as great marvel, that some of them trowed it were an impossible thing to be.

We moderns might be inclined to trow it impossible, too. Yet is it possible that the barnacle goose finds its equivalent in recent college graduates, who find themselves suddenly adrift of the parental money tree, and must function on their own or perish?  Indeed, the author sees many subtle similarities. Barnacle goslings grow on trees that overhang bodies of water; the young birds hang from their sprouting-points by their beaks.  When the birds are “ripe,” they fall. The fortuitous ones, which fall into the water, float and find themselves well on their way to healthy, productive adult lives. But those that fall on land– or go to graduate school– face a harder fate. Some die. The 14th century besties apparently all died, as there simply aren’t many tree-growing geese running about these days.

Yet today’s hapless little geese, who unerringly choose graduate studies in something “esoteric” like “Medieval English” or “Philosphy,” may in fact return to the life-giving tree well into adulthood, until the tree at long last shouts:

“Enough already! how long does a dissertation TAKE, anyway?

sigh.

take it from the author of BV, dear readers. major in something useful, like billiards, or graft.

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Humanatee: A dying breed

seen here without a school, this humanatee may never find a home

The humanatee is an ancient, intelligent beast, most often found in large “schools,” though members of far-flung schools frequently gather together in large, gregarious groups called “conferences.” During these  sporadic expeditions, humanatees may demonstrate dominance by flashing the “TT” position. These strange creatures then show off to potential mates by uttering strange, unintelligible  sounds in rapid succession.

Infighting and promiscuous behavior is not uncommon in conferences.

But dear readers, the humanatee, contrary to appearances, is not its own worst enemy. The humanatee is among our worlds most endangered species, and though abundant, is seriously threatened by the rough economic waters currently plaguing our shores and those the world over. Worse, funding for conservation programs has recently been cut dramatically, leading some experts to wonders whether there is adequate habitat  in today’s academe for the humanatees.*

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Sloth

Is sloth a) the creature pictured above or b) the author of BV's fatal flaw?

Is Sloth a) the creature pictured above or b) the author of BV's fatal flaw?

 Sloths once lived both on the ground and in trees, but ground sloths, too slow to outmaeuver enemies, are now extinct, leaving only the familiar upside-down tree dwelling variety.* The surviving species belong to families Megalonychidae (two toed sloths) and Bradypodidae (three toed sloths); only one species (Bradypus torquatus) is currently listed as endangered, though the deforestation of South America’s rainforests may spell trouble for the rest as well. 

Tree dwelling sloths have highly specialized adaptations: for instance, sloths’  outer coats grow “upside down.” Typically, a mammal’s outer hairs  grow “downwards,” but sloth hair has adapted to sloth behavior; because they spend a significant percentage of their time ass-over-elbows, their hair grows away from their extremities, providing added protection from the elements in the inverted position, and creating a flattering “fauxhawk” when upright.
 In addition, their long, curved claws allow them to easily hang upside-down from branches, even to eat, sleep, give birth upside down. The sloth’s  “hands” and “feet” are so efficient that sloths sometimes remain hanging from branches after death, even when shot by poachers. This is  adegree of lethargy truly unmatched outside of my own livingroom.

 These animals are slow moving, low in muscle mass for their size, and the stomach of well-fed adult can make up 2/3 of it’s body weight. They are not, in other words, so very different from many of the grad students at major universities, who have likewise adapted coping mechanisms (including slow progress and binge eating)  to compensate for their diminishing habitat, and for the scarceness and unpalatable nature of available resources,  (particularly once they have remained in their doctoral programs past normative time). ** 

 

*Until the arrival of humans on the North and South American continents, they were poplulated with ground sloths, now extinct. Human hunting of these slow-moving targets likely had a large part in their extinction, though the concommitant Ice age probably helped.

Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sloth

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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
      http://library.thinkquest.org/C004367/la4.shtml
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naegleria_fowleri

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