Archive for January, 2007

Those A-Mazing Cephalopods

Via one of PZ Myers’ infamous Cephalopod Friday posts, here’s a link to a National Geographic video of an octopus sliding through a plexiglass maze. It uses its suction cups to pull itself through the tubes.

Best line: “Can you imagine how much fun it would be to be an octopus?”

Little-known cephalopod fact: Because octopuses’ bodies contain no air bladders or gas pockets they  can live at depths where the pressure is so great a human being would implode.

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20 January 2007 at 13:03 Leave a comment

Time On My Hands

So what am I going to do with myself and all the copious free time on my hands between now and a week from Monday when the new semester starts?

  • Let’s start with the boring necessities, shall we. I need to clean my room. It’s never completely organized, but it’s gotten worse over the past month since I’ve been working on end-of-term assignments. Stacks of paper everywhere. CD cases fallen down behind the bookshelf. A thick layer of crap on the top of my dresser: ponytail holders and pill bottles and receipts from my pockets. The air conditioner sitting on the floor where it’s been for the last month. (Finally, in December, it was actually cold enough in El Niñoed, globally warmed New England to justify pulling the A/C out of the window.)
  • Fiddling. After months of feeling like my playing was deteriorating, I finally got it together to take my fiddle to a luthier. When I got it back, it was like having a whole new instrument – and for only a fraction of the price. What’s more, I actually feel like I’m a better fiddler. (There’s a lesson in this: something along the lines of “don’t be to eager to blame yourself.”)
  • I’ve been so excited about playing my newly repaired fiddle that I signed up to go to the annual Ski Dance Weekend in Vermont. This weekend is officially about dance and fiddle classes, but I tend to just go to hang out with my fiddling friends and maybe go on an outing to some local (usually food-related) attraction or other.
  • I’m going to read books for fun. I would be exaggerating if I said that I’ve forgotten what this feels like. I actually found time to read two novels during the week of bronchitis and three term papers. But it will be nice to read books without the knowledge that there’s some assignment I should probably be working on instead. Here are some of the things on my to-read list (some already in progress):
    • Kalla det fan vad du vill by Marjaneh Bakhtiari – I’ve actually started this already. It’s a great Swedish novel about a family of Iranian immigrants in Malmö. Kind of like the Swedish White Teeth.
    • The Atoms of Language by Mark Baker – When I first bought this book three or four years ago, I gave up on it as over-my-head linguistically. (I think I was intimidated by the syntax trees.) After a semester of linguistics, I’ve been finding it much easier going. (Heck, now I can even draw my own syntax trees.)
    • This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel Levitan – There aren’t so many books that let me indulge my love for science and my love for music, but this is one of them.
    • Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley — Okay, this is admittedly not reading, but rereading. I read this book (in hardback) when I lived in Sweden, and then at the end of the year gave my copy to one of my classmates, an aspiring linguist. I’ve never regretted giving her my copy, but I’ve regretted not being able to reread it at will — especially while I was taking linguistics this past semester. So, as a present for finishing up my coursework, I bought myself a new copy.
    • The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig — This is the third in Willig’s romantic comedy adventures set in Napoleonic Europe. The series centers around a group of English spies (the Purple Gentian, the Pink Carnation) modeled on the Scarlet Pimpernel, and the first two books were a whole lot of fun. And how can you not love an author who, when she started the PhD history program at Harvard, told her professors that she was studying history so she could write romance novels.
    • There are many other books on the pile by my bed, so I’ll just stop with the ones I’ve listed. I’ll be lucky if I manage to finish the ones above by the time classes start up again.
  • Last but by no means least, I’m going to watch the Firefly box set for what must be the sixth or seventh time. I finally bought my own copy — yet another end-of-semester present — which I actually had to leave sealed in its packaging until all my papers were turned in lest I watch the adventures of Mal and the gang instead of doing my schoolwork.

There’s probably more I could add, but I think I just leave it at that.

20 January 2007 at 10:57 2 comments

School’s out!

At least for the next ten days.

Tonight I had my last class of the semester — finally! — and my first final in 19 years. (Well maybe 12 years, if you count that anatomy class I took during my short-lived “I think I’ll become an acupuncturist” phase.)

Despite much panic over the past few days (especially yesterday night when I found myself uncontrollably surfing the Web instead of studying), all went well. I finished within the time limit. I felt comfortable with all my answers. The test was oddly fun even.

After I turned my exam in to the TA, I felt like skipping around the quad shouting, “I’m done! I’m done.” I restrained myself, though. Such displays might well be considered unseemly at Fancypants U. – at least for forty-year-old returning students. If I were a drunken undergrad, it might be okay.

The oddest thing kept happening as I was writing the answer to the essay questions: I kept almost, not quite writing in Swedish. The same thing happened as I was writing my paper for this class (Intro. to Folklore). That was at least understandable since the paper was actually about something Swedish; it involved reading Swedish books and listening to tapes of people speaking in Swedish.

Maybe it’s just that I was reading a Swedish novel before class started — something to take my mind off the test. Whatever the reason, though, it was nice to have my other language bubbling up unbidden that way.

18 January 2007 at 23:41 2 comments

Meteorite Hits Bathroom

I think the fine folks at Discovery News have been recruiting their headline writers from the tabloids. As if the whole dragon virgin birth thing wasn’t enough, I arrived at work today to find the above headline at the top of the science news feed on my start up screen.

Of course, when you click through, there’s always a serious science story. (I think a part of me is always just the tiniest bit disappointed by this.)

My favorite quote comes from the curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s meteorite collection:

Every meteorite serves as a “poor man’s space probe,” yielding information on how the solar system formed, [Tim] McCoy said.

Today’s little-known meteorite fact:

Apparently fewer than 5000 meteorites have ever been recovered in the entire history of mankind. I know that three quarters of the earth is covered by oceans and that great swaths of the dry land is uninhabited, but I was still surprised by how low that figure was.

12 January 2007 at 11:04 Leave a comment

D’ja miss me?

Sorry to stay away so long. What with the five days home sick and the three papers due in one week, I’ve not had so much time for Web surfing.

Now I’m down to the sniffles and one final exam so I might even be able to post something from time to time.

Check back soon. I promise to write.

12 January 2007 at 10:51 Leave a comment


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