Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bug Man Extraordinaire

Last night I went to a Progressive Forum lecture by E.O. Wilson. Who is Wilson you ask? Well, you really should know so I’ll tell you. He is an extremely prolific Pulitzer-winning entomologist and Harvard professor who essentially created the field of sociobiology and has championed the issue of biodiversity for decades. Wait, are you thinking, “Why would I want to hear what a bug-obsessed man has to say about the larger world?” Although a naturalist, conservationist, and theorist, Wilson is one of those rare humans whose impact extends far beyond a field of study or academia and into the world at large.

Wilson spoke with reverence and immeasurable respect about the intricate complexity of Earth’s creation. Using decades of his research, he detailed some astounding facts about biodiversity (at least 1.5 million species on earth at last count) and the increasing pace at which humans are destroying our earth. Wilson also discussed his new book: The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. Using a hypothetical letter from the book written to a generic Southern Baptist Pastor, Wilson asks why religious leaders haven’t made the protection of Creation a priority Essentially, Wilson appeals to the leaders of two of today’s most influential communities—scientists and religious leaders—to come together to save the glory of nature. Surprisingly optimistic, Wilson outlined several strategies that can only come about through the unified efforts of these two, often polarized groups. Wilson closed with the observation by (somebody whose name I forget with the Nature Conservancy) that society is defined not just by what it creates but by what it refuses to destroy. That is something I am going to contemplate for some time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My Newest Plan for Success in Just Four Steps

Okay. As a languishing doctoral candidate, I have reached a point where I can no longer deny the fact that a.) I have hugely procrastinated writing my dissertation; b.) I have lost all motivation; and, as a consequence of the foregoing, c.) I seriously need help.

Thus, I have implemented a four-pronged approach to my problem. First, I tell everybody about my problems. I whine, I complain, etc. This is revolutionary to me not because I am typically a tough, grin-and-bear-it type of gal, but because I am admitting my problem like a good 12-stepper. Second, I have instituted a dissertation support group that will involve complaining, whining, and drinking with other sufferers. Third, I am reading the book Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker, Ed.D. And finally, I plan to write the damn thing.

As for Bolker’s book, even the author admits that the title is a hugely unfunny but catchy joke. However, the first four chapters of the book have already given me some useful strategies with which to unleash the dam of useless knowledge and pedantry (otherwise known as dissertating). My so-far take on the book? I think it just might give me a much-needed poke in the ass.

Now that I know I have at least 3 regular readers of this blog (wow, the group of faithful and otherwise unoccupied are growing!), I plan to keep you all posted about how this process is going. All I can say is that only one day in to my four-step program, I AM ALREADY BORED. But nevertheless, I plan to persevere.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Best Contest Ever

So I was killing some time and looking for jobs online. I came to the Marie Stopes International webpage (which, by the way, I had previously considered to be a highly respectable international reproductive health organization) and encountered a pop-up ad for a contest they are holding. See below:

To win a free vasectomy send your suggestions for the best vasectomy inspired BOOK, SONG and FILM along with your name and email address to: with the subject line:
‘Free vasectomy competition’

Entries must be received by Saturday 7 October 2006

Winners will be notified by email by Friday 20 October 2006

Competition is open to 18’s and over only. The judges decision is final. Prizes are not transferable and there is no cash alternative.

Competition is not open to employees of Marie Stopes International or their relatives.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Mt. St. Helens

In 1980, when I was but a wee girl, the beautifully peaked mountain 50 or so miles from my home errupted and sent a storm of ash around the world.

Ten years ago, on some kind of goofy whim, I climbed the mountain with my sister. I have joyous memories of actually running (yes running) both up and down the damn thing with abandon. I came back recently for an encore climb up Monitor Ridge to the summit along with my sister, brother, and Arlen. However, the toll of the last 10 years was pretty obvious—it took us 11 hours for the round-trip climb! And it HURT! Nevertheless we all reached the summit and took in the spectacular views. Amazingly, over the course of the 11-hour day we covered 10 miles with an elevation gain of about 4800 feet!

We started at 8:05 a.m. from the climber’s bivouac at approximately 3700 feet. Over the next 5 or so hours, we scrambled up, around, and over hundreds and hundreds of giant boulders and then slipped and slided through a hell basically equivalent to climbing uphill on a sandy beach. The wind was intense and together with the ash and sand of the last 1,000 feet we were caught in an intense natural sandblaster. Thankfully we had dust masks to help with our breathing.

Shortly after we reached timberline we were above the clouds. The sky was clear and rain-free for the rest of the trip. The views of Mts. Hood, Adams, and Jefferson along the way were amazing. From the crater, the view of Mt. Rainier and Spirit Lake were breathtaking. But nothing compares to standing at the crater and peering into the giant yawning mouth of an active volcano.

For the past 2 years, Mt. St. Helens has been undergoing a continuous dome-building eruption. The dome inside is growing at a rapid pace (for a while at 6 feet per day), and is currently at 7550 feet. Don’t quote me on this or anything but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mt. St. Helens regenerated its peak within our lifetime.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Me, Modigliani style

What if I was his model???

Modigliani died at the age of 35.

If you aren't familiar with his work, you are definately missing something. I have a (cheap-o but nevertheless stunning) print of "Woman with red hair" on my staircase. LOVE HIM.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I actually went to church

Yesterday I visited a Hindu temple in Stafford expecting a big ceremony that I wanted to witness. Didn't exactly work out, apparently due to a wet floor. Yes, I know, an ancient ritual postponed due to liabilitly concerns is, well, ridiculously American.

So then I didn't know where to go. It was Sunday. I didn't want to go to work or home. So I thought: church!

Wow, well since I may have like 2 readers of this blog (including myself), I can assume that I really don't need to explain my religious history here. But to summarize: I really don't go to church, have been an agnostic/athiest for years until quite recently. I was raised as a Unitarian Universalist, which is just a little hard to explain, so I'll save that for a later (possibly nonexistent) date.

Anywho, I made it the First UU Church of Houston in time for the second service. The sermon was "How Long Do We Grieve?" Honestly, if I had known it would be about September 11th, I probably would not have gone. But I am glad I stayed. Gail Lindsay Marriner, the minister, reviewed reactions to the tragedy as through the paradigm of the Kubler-Ross grieving process. It was a moving sermon and gave the listener time to think about and review the content and meaning of individual grief response as well as our nation's reponse. (I won't get into the controversy about Kubler-Ross and her "research" here although I am pretty tempted.) She led us through some important questions such as "What does it mean that our nation responded in anger, with war and blind retribution? How long will it take us to heal as individuals and as a nation? What is our responsibility for our nation's reponse?"

I won't summarize the whole sermon here, but I will give you the closing words, were written by the (now) retired minister Bob Scahibly 5 years ago in response to the tragedy:

"To those of you who died, we are so sorry,
For we wish no one ever to die with terror in their eyes.
We say to you that though you do not know the end of your story,
We who live resolve to remember you,
And to hold you in our hearts like little lighted candles.
And in your silence you speak to us, and say,
'Each day is precious
So, Love mightily!'
And we answer you as we do now, saying out loud and repeating:
'Al right! We will!
We will love mightily!'
Amen. Shalom. May it be so."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


A few nights ago I attended the Body Worlds exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Body Worlds is a traveling exhibit of real human bodies and human organs that are preserved through a process called plastination. The exhibit was so popular that the museum extended their hours so they would be open 24-hours a day for the final weekend over Labor Day.

This exhibit was gruesome and raw. It was morbid but somehow life-affirming. Many of the exhibits were straight-forward and all were educational. There were healthy lungs and smoker's lungs, arthritic knee-joints, human hearts—one with an artificial valve, and whole circulatory systems. But there were also whole-body exhibits (primarily of men), which went above and beyond a strict representation of anatomical reality.

I was struck by a number of things. One is that somehow this process either cannot preserve body fat or the designers chose not to do so. Looking back and forth between the mostly overweight Houston crowd and the plastinated bodies I was struck by the disparity. The bodies seemed so small, so delicate and vulnerable. Houstonians, in contrast, are huge and hulking creatures. I couldn't stop imagining the deleterious effects of all of our excess fat on top of the delicate structures inside our bodies, our hearts, skeletons, tendons, and capillaries.

Another thing that ended up keeping me up until 1 in the morning was the question, What was it? Was it solely educational? Was it irreverent and/or degrading? Was it (gasp!) art? I'm not sure. Some of the exhibits, primarily the "Flayed Man" as I call him, went beyond a representation of reality into another, orthogonal realm. This man was holding his internal digestive system outside of his body, from tongue to colon, while the muscles and tendons that normally would be lying on top of his skeletal structure were flayed in multiple directions, pointed skyward, sideways, toward the ground-- all directed away from his body.

What was that? I'm still not sure.