Monday, April 30, 2007


Will I be an unemployed, but hopefully not unemployable, PhD?

That thought has maked my stomach churn lately. I have several applications out, in various places, for a variety of types of work, but I still have this sinking feeling that I will need to figure out: 1) how to pay my student loans which will become due SOON, 2) how to make myself more employable in academia, 3) what to do to pass the time.

Three is easy; I've got Pimsleur Japanese plus hiragana and katakana to learn. I should be doing that anyway to prepare for going Japan, but assuming none of my application pan out, I can throw myself into language study. I could resume my study of Arabic and French. I also have endless art project ideas. There's the primate portrait pastel series, the Curious George themed toybox for some lucky kid, paper-making, beadwork, and simple furniture items like tables and an ottoman. That could keep me busy for a couple of years.

In the meantime I can take care of the first problem with the dreaded temp work. Every time I realize that is the only definitive way to make money in this town without getting a 'real' job in some other field, I feel a little vomit forming in the back of my throat. I went down the temp path years ago after I couldn't locate a worthwhile job here after college graduation. Eventually I went off to graduate school. And look where I am - right smack dab where I started, but now I have a pretty huge diploma and will most likely have to leave again. And they say there isn't a brain drain here.

THE Publish or Perish PROBLEM
But what I should really focus on is the second problem - how to make myself more employable in academia. I have a great teaching CV. Zero problem there, so far as I know. What I lack is publications.

What has always been the bane of my existance as a graduate student is that I have no publications. My advisor/program did not coach me through any of that and I haven't found outside people who publish a lot who will take me under their wing. The conferences I have presented at and attended are very clique-ish. If you aren't a "name" or at a university where the 'cool' research is being conducted, forget about meaningful networking. And this field is an 'outsider' field so you'd think they would go out of their way to help others get into it.

What I need is a research mentor and/or a collaborator who is experienced with publishing. I haven't found someone who will let me work on one of their projects. I have my own research project ideas - tons of them - that isn't the problem. I need someone I can trust who will vet them and help me turn the ideas into publishable documents.

I have two potential papers in addition to the one I have been trying to get published. It recently got rejected, for the fourth time, and so now I have to figure out which bottom barrel journal to try just to get it published. I should also rework my dissertation and a project I did with one of my thesis students. The dissertation needs to be seriously boiled down and the thesis - pretty much rewritten. I know I need help. The trouble is, I have no idea who will actually help me on this one.

So, I have two problems associated with getting publications that are both essentially about lacking an academic network.

What do you do to get into a research network?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Orangutan Pastel

Here's my second attempt at a pastel - an adult male 'cheek padder' orangutan. I worked from a photo of an individual I believe is named Adik. Adik lives in Borneo and as you can tell from his cheek phalanges, he is a dominant male.

In Borneo, only dominant males develop secondary sexual characteristics such as full cheek pads, deep voice, and a huge size. Subordinate males who live in the dominant male's territory do not develop these traits. No knows quite why the so-called 'Peter Pan' males fail to develop. It may be stress-induced dwarfism or hormonal suppression possibly caused by pheromones emited by the dominant male. If the dominant male leaves or dies, the most dominant of the subordinate males in the area mature and become the dominant male with all of the associated physical characteristics. Orangutans are the only primate known to display two different coexisting adult male morphs. Of course there's a scientific term for it. It's called bimaturism, but some also call it arrested development.

Besides being physically stunted, the Peter Pan rangs might also be considered socially stunted. Females prefer to mate with the dominant males, so in order for subordinate males produce progeny they often resort to alternative strategies: rape or what primatologists call forced copulation. Females have evolved strategies for dealing with the threat of forced copulations. Lone females will travel to be closer to a dominant male. If she can't find one she seeks out other females. When no dominant male is nearby but a subordinate Peter Pan male is, females tend to stick closer together.

This is significant because orangutans are a solitary species. Fruiting trees are sparsely scattered in their habitat and don't come into season all at once so the habitat cannot support group foraging. Instead, rangs forage individually to be sure to get enough to eat and also leave enough to ripen for later. For females this artifact of habitat opens the door to being harassed by subordinate males. Dominant males rarely force copulations.

Obviously, one can draw some very interesting and provactive comparisons between humans and orangutans.

*** This pastel took a lot longer than the previous pastel I did on account of the time it took to put the tiny hairs on his face. I really like this one. I like how his eyes, nose, and lips turned out. I think he has a very typical orang expression.

My next pastel will be of a monkey without hair on its face. Candidates are: douc langur, snub-nosed langur, and bald uakari. I am leaning toward the snub-nosed langur because it has a very strange face - it's blue! Plus it is an incredibly rare species; I could not locate a single decent source to link to. The one I found contained plagiarized material.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Love it! Hate it :-(

Now that my dissertation is officially done I have been on R&R, doing other projects - mostly gardening and art. It is surprisingly easy to go from one day to the next without paying much attention to what the date is, or as I found out this morning, what day of the week it is! To Sleyed from bed early this morning:
You're going to work?!
At the UB?!
It's Saturday!!!!

I said with conviction. Uh ooops.

Last night I finally opened the box that contained my doctoral robe. I tried it on and as anyone who knows me well might have guessed, my eyes watered. Yep, I hope the novelty wears off by the time I am actually hooded on stage in front of two former U.S. Presidents so I don't cry. I don't know why I get so emotional about stuff like this, but I have always and I probably always will. Being the first in my family to go to college, it's an extra-special achievement that I went on to get a PhD too. Why colleges and universities do not consider First Generation College a quality that adds to the "diversity" of the place I don't understand. It may be "hidden" but so is sexual orientation and that qualifies. Maybe I just am frustrated with the prospects of finding a position in academia - for so many reasons. I have applications out so we'll see. I may be pouring coffee for minimum wage just to pay off student loans for my BA... Hate that.

My manuscript got rejected for publication again. Hate that. How many times does your article have to be rejected before you are justified in scrapping it?

My new hair cut is fabulous. I absolutely adore it. The chick who cut my hair really did a great job. I wish she had nailed the color too. She put highlights in, but they came out way too streaky. She's going to fix them next week. Not being someone who has done this a lot before - the last time I really got my hair cut was about 10 years ago! - I don't know whether I should expect to have to pay for the color re-do or not. I don't think I should because The costumer is always right, right? I was pleasantly surprised that it only cost $95 for the cut, color, and style. Tipping is another thing I don't get - how much are you expected to tip for this sort of service?

Although I don't have much money left over from savings, I still treated my family to a few little "home improvements." The best new addition is the red habatoi silk comforter I got from Pottery Barn. Love it!!! Also, I got a great Hiroshige print (the one I have been admiring) from my FIL. I found a suitable frame for it yesterday and picked out the ideal spot. It'll be hung later today. Love it too!

In a few weeks I will be able to hang up the next project - a series of hands of fatima that FIL is scroll sawing for me. I plan to paint them black, hang them above the bed, and put tea lights behind them. I can't wait to see how they turn out and what interesting shadows they will cast. When I told Sleyed where they would go I refered to them as hand of fatimas not hands of fatima. He doesn't leave work - ever. Mr. Grammarian immediately exclaimed: So cool! I thought he was approving the project! But no - he wanted to discuss something that he read in Words & Rules or some other text. I didn't mind really; it was actually pretty interesting that in spoken lanaguage we have very clear rules about pluralizing words but in writing the rules aren't always the same. The hand of fatima thing was a perfect example.

The next project will be hanging the new shelves that will eventually display my primate pastel series. I'm doing a cheek-padder orangutan.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Regina Spektor!!!

I'm not usually blown away by talent but last night Regina Spektor did just that. She played a small venue at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland to a standing crowd full of mostly young women. It took a long time for her to finally come on stage, and when she did her first performance left no doubt that we were all in for a fantastic show.

It took a bit of research but I was able to discover a You Tube clip of the song she opened with, Ain't No Cover, which she performed a cappela while tapping her microphone softly to mimic a heartbeat.

Her band wasn't with her, which if you believe this review, made us all lucky! When she got up from her piano to play "That Time" she told us all a story about her green guitar and then she forgot the lyrics! She brushed it off demurely and then got rolling on the third attempt. I think it only heightened the anticipation for one of her best songs. Here's a YouTube clip of her telling us about the guitar - we were the first to hear her use it and though it was out of tune she played on, tuning her voice to it.

She played for about 90 minutes and did a four song encore that included a cover of a John Lennon song. She played several songs off of her album Begin to Hope, including Fidelity, On the Radio, Summer In the City, Samson, and Apres Moi. I enjoyed seeing which songs appeared to be her favorites - she belted out Apres Moi so powerfully it was impossible not to feel her passion. She sang Summer in the City very delicately; it was sweet actually.

Regina writes her own lyrics and music and performs them with amazing feats of vocal gymnastics with such gusto, yet diffidence, that it is hard to feel like she is up there just to show off. At one point during "Poor Little Rich Boy" she played three instruments at once, never missing a single beat. Her range is amazing and when you throw in the music, smart lyrics, her passion, you get one hell of a talented individual.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Ravens: Masters of Deceit

Spiegel Online features well-written article about the intelligence of ravens; it's well-worth the read. It talks about the birds hanging on to the tails of boars to get pulled through the snow on their backs, playing dead next to a carcass to fool another raven into leaving the food alone, and other displays of intelligence. It also mentions a theory about how raven behavior might have driven the cooperative hunting seen among wolves. Very interesting. Though it's short on scientific findings, the shared anecdotes are entertaining. I also wish stories like these included references to the published science behind the story. I don't have time to go track it all down on my own!

Ravens look similar to crows but are much larger. You can easily see the difference in the photo above. Some people have raised crows, ravens, and starlings from birth to be pets. Mozart's starling became famous and possibly wrote one of his most famous pieces of music. Crows have been reputed to be able to learn to talk, but so have some dogs and cats whose owners swear they meow and moan things like "mama."

I've never met a talking crow but I did meet one once in the aviary here in town that vocalized every time Sleyed and I walked away and only when we walked away. It shut up when we reappeared. I think that qualifies as play. Crows are smart like ravens. Indeed, I've never heard of a dumb member of the corvid family. I've met the ravens of the Tower of London. They were aloof, but they meet a lot of people so it's got to be difficult to make an impression on them! Legend has it that if the ravens who live at the Tower of London ever leave, the monarchy of England will fall.

A new version of the Mind of the Raven, by Bernd Heinrich, will be published in June. I have the original on my shelf and recommend it to anyone who is interested in the minds of animals, particularly corvids.

Evidently some crows, magpies, jays, and ravens are kept captive in cages in the U.K. called "Larsen Traps" that use the captive corvid to attract another to keep the birds from interfering with "game birds" and song bird populations. The ACT website is interesting and highlights the hazards of human attemps to manage wildlife.

What's the temperament of that dog?

That was the question I was asked last week when Katy came face to face with a pet macaw.

The macaw stood perched on the iron fence enclosing the outdoor seating area of a popular Big Brand coffee shop. It had been squacking its fool head off and upsetting Katy while we were waiting outside the local coffee shop around the corner. We walked up the other coffee place to see what was making all the noise. It took Katy a while to spot the bird. She wanted to run away from the frightening phoenix. I have been trying to acclimate her to things that scare her by immersion therapy so we stayed a while, about four feet from the bird. She wanted to leave.

The guy who ostensibly belonged to the bird asked about Katy's temperament and I replied she's a Newfoundland and most are very friendly but this one is skiddish. Sleyed appeared with coffee from around the corner and we left. Later I saw the dude walking down the street with the bird on his shoulder.

Those who know me well know how I feel about people owning non-domesticated species as pets.

Anyhow, Katy is not what I would call a "bird dog" in spite of the common breeding heritage of Newfs and retrievers. She thinks the ducks on campus are interesting and I haven't seen a great deal of evidence that she would try to kill a bird. If I allowed her to chase ducks, I think she'd be more likely to chase them into the water in oder to swim around with them, maybe mouth one a little if she caught one, but then who knows what - lick it to death? Max is th eone with the kill instinct. He is a bird dog, and if he had received proper training, he would be the classic, hard-working spaniel who runs out ahead to flush the pheasants for Katy to retrieve and deliver gently back to us. She might have been a good bird dog. She follows direction well, is eager to please, and learns from mistakes if she is corrected in time. BUT she hates loud noises, so someone would have to hunt with a silent rifle or shot gun in order for her to try her paws at bird dogging. I think pulling is her true forte, and that really is what her breed was created to do. Eventually we'll get her hooked up with a cart she can pull.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Talk About A Wild Hair

Now that the cat is out of the bag about what I research, I suppose the occassional hair reference or post devoted entirely to grooming will not come as a surprise.

I made an appointment to get my hair chopped off today. It's been a long time in the making and is now long enough that I could easily lose ten inches and still be able to pull it back in a short ponytail. I will donate my chopped hair to Locks of Love, the outfit that makes wigs for kids with cancer.

Although I like having long hair because it requires little maintenance, it is not totally maintenance free. I spend less than a minute "styling" it so that part is wonderful, but it is getting so long and heavy that the time it takes to wash and brush it is becoming a nuissance. Her Royal Highness the Newfsance can tell when I am brushing my hair because of the telltale sounds. I will admit that somedays I just braid it without brushing it because I don't feel like spending 20 masochistic minutes making it smooth. It is also incredibly heavy and since I don't blow it dry, it remains heavy for a long time until the water evaporates. I usually wash it in the evening so it can dry while I sleep.

I am ready for my summer buzz cut. When we get Zam the Spaniel buzzed for the summer he comes home with a fun short do we call the puppy cut. The few ounces he loses seem to come back in the form of pounds more youthful energy. We'll see what the puppy cut does for me!

Here's how it will look:

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Field Research

One of my options now that I am finished with school is to look for interesting places to do fieldwork or teach. I would love to stay where I am at, but the reality is that I may not be able to. Good jobs for PhDs are scarce in my isolated little desert outpost.

Some of the places I look for jobs include the Teaching of Psychology listserve, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Social Psych Network job posting forum, and PIN where today I spotted an advertisement for an assistant professor of primatology in Japan. I am not qualified, but any time I learn about an open position in primatology I get really excited. Japan has a long history of primate field research. In fact, it predates Jane Goodall's pioneering study. To see an open position there is surprising; I would be even more suprised to see one in this country. They are exceptionally rare.

The best way to be a bona fide primatologist is to do fieldwork. I don't think I can really be taken seriously as a primatologist until I conduct field research on a nonhuman primate species. Otherwise, I will always be a psychologist to many people. Who knows, maybe if I publish my research in a primatology journal (there are only two - one U.S. and one Japanese) that would make me legit. I doubt my research would be considered for publication in these two journals however. That would take a major change in their editorial policy. So, field research looks like an attractive possibility.

I learned French so that I could read books like Terre des Hommes and Le Petit Prince but also so that if and when the right time came, I could go do field research in Francophone Africa either studying gorillas or lemurs. The right time may be fast approaching. I may not be able to secure a job here; my DH may not be able to advance his career here; it looks like I won't be able to start a family; and there is a field research position with the WCS that actually pays for the research assistant's travel, insurance, meals, and accommodations to study gorillas at Mbeli Bai. The gorillas at Mbeli Bai were in the news a while back when researchers there reported the first ever observations of wild gorilla tool use.

It is nearly impossible to get paid to study primates as a field worker and very few research sites support anyone other than the P.I. Most often, to do field work, you have to pay for your flight and travel to the field site which can run around $3,500 and then also pay for all of your meals, housing, and incidentals including gear like binos, boots, rain gear, tent, etc. And you have to be willing to commit to at least 6 months in virtual isolation. You also have to be prepared to spend long days in the field on anti-malarial medication with all sorts of insects, snakes, and other nasties.

It's a job for the crazy.

I'll wait until I for certain don't have a job, read the Heart of Darkness, and then seriously consider the possibility of a major life adventure (but only if Sleyed wants to join me!).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Being Neurotic Can Kill You

Dan Mroczek, a developmental psychologist working with longitudinal data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, has found that men who became less neurotic with age had a lower risk of mortality.

So what does it mean to be neurotic?

In the realm of abnormal psychology there are two broad classes of mental illness: psychoticism and neuroticism. All types of mental illness can more or less be fit into one category or the other. Conditions like schizophrenia, dissociative fugue, and Alzheimer's are psychotic disorders because each involves a break with reality, the hallmark of psychoticism. Neuroticism on the other hand encompasses mood disorders of which depression and OCD are great examples.

Just as with physical health, there is no a black and white distinction between health and illness in psychology.
Mroczek's research suggest people should be concerned about the long-term side effects of being even slightly neurotic.

According to his study, small increases in neuroticism have harmful effects. "Participants with as little as a one-unit increase in neuroticism over the course of the study were shown to have a 40 percent higher chance of death than a participant who showed no change" according to the press release. The study will be published next month.

Just how and why being a worrywort, touchy, or moody affects health is not known.

Mroczek suspects that it might have something to do with an inability to effectively deal with stress.

Stress can corrode the immune system that guards our health through a chemical called cortisol. Stress causes our bodies to release cortisol. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In small amounts, cortisol actually helps our immune system function better. In larger amounts it shuts down the immune system and can seriously damage many organs, including the brain.

Cortisol can be kept down by avoiding situations that cause stress or by coping more effectively with stress. Unfortunately, many people get wrapped up in taking the edge off of the daily assaults of life by resorting to bad habits like smoking, drinking, and over-eating. Those ways of coping decrease subjective stress but they don't actually do anything to lower cortisol levels. In fact, smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol harms the immune system because those chemicals kill vital white blood cells.

Massage is one highly effective way to cope with stress. It has measurable, positive effects on the immune system. So does exercise.

Being neurotic can kill you, but it does not have to. The best thing people can do to improve health is to stop smoking, drink less, get exercise and trade back rubs with a loved one.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dissertation Defense - The Verdict Is In

Although I've had a few days to reflect on the while process of successfully defending my dissertation, I can't say that I have any profound thoughts on it. It was a lot of work, but in the end, it was completely manageable. Other than one melt down over whether my SPSS spreadsheet was so screwed up once it got imported into SPSS that it would be worthless -AND- the many numerous small assaults on my patience with detail, it was a relatively emotionally easy task to deal with.

The hardest part of all of this for me has actually been the rift that has erupted over time between me and my mother that stems from our vastly different levels of education and corresponding values.

Yes, I may have a Pretty Huge Diploma but as my mother reminded me not too long ago, she has "a PhD in street smarts" as if to say that was better and that I lacked the life knowledge that really matters. Why she really feels so insecure in comparison to me I will never know. For me to understand that would require us to actually talk without self-protective defenses. I am capable of laying down my quills in the name of peace-making. I hope some day she is too.

My experience of having difficulty with a family member because I am educated is certainly not unique to me. Later this month the author of Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams,
Alfred Lubrano, a reporter working at the Philadelphia Inquirer, will come to speak on my campus. His book is a combo of autobiography and interviews of fellow "Straddlers" as he calls them who walk a fine line between their working class roots and their white collar life, not really fitting into either. A summary of the book can be downloaded here.

"This country always celebrates the idea that there is enormous opportunity here to move up from one's station in life, to achieve greatness from the most humble of roots. But for those who are the first from a traditionally blue-collar family to enter college and move into the white-collar workplace, there is a darker side to success when they find themselves alienated from both their own family and their strange new middle-class world."

I don't know if I agree with the conclusion of one review of the book that proposes class values is a subject even touchier than race or gender, but I do think this is a subject that ought to be discussed along with race, gender, and sexual orientation.

The movie Spanglish provided my first opportunity to realize that my education might alienate me from my family. I recall one scene from the movie in which the working class mother speaks to her school-oriented daughter on a bench waiting for the bus to take her daughter off to get an education. I can't recall exactly what the mom said, but I remember she expressed anxiety about whether they would still be able to relate once her daughter moved into the other (white, educated, English-speaking) world.

I'd like to think I can navigate both worlds, but it is a struggle to straddle them well. I can relate to being an outsider who doesn't really fit into either one. Although it's uncomfortable, I find that I actually gravitate toward that place. My dissertation topic is a perfect example.

I studied human mutual grooming - think primates and louse picking but translate that into the myriad ways humans groom each other. The topic is brand, spanking new but it's not like no one has ever noticed it before. No one has ever published anything academic on the subject. Finding a "home" for my research in the world of publishing has been difficult. It's psychology but not your typical psychology study because I talk a lot about animals and use theories from evolutionary biology. It's not biology either because zoologists study animals, and as we all know from our culture, people aren't animals. For that reason it's also not primatology. However, my stance has always been that people are primates too so if I review primate literature, use ev bio theory, and study a primate species, my research ought to be considered primatology. But alas, it isn't because I studied the only primate species that doesn't fall into primatology. So that takes me back to psychology. My research isn't classic social psychology because the topic has little to do with behavior change on account of being in a group and my theoretical perspective is evolutionary, not the Standard Social Science Model. However, my work is not classic evolutionary psychology either. I did not use Sexual Strategies Theory to craft my hypotheses. The fatal blow. To make it worse, there's a little journal that deals with nonverbal behavior but they are only interested in behavior that has actually been observed. No one is going to observe people taking a shower together or sqeezing each other's pimples. We just don't groom in public. I am not interested in professional grooming so much as the casual ways we tidy each other's appearance.

As much as my research makes difficulties for me because it doesn't fit any one area, I actually like that it straddles multiple areas. My breadth is a strength.

My committee encouraged me to publish my dissertation. They think my introductory chapter, the literature review, is very strong and could stand on its own as a review article. Evidently I synthesize well. They think my whole dissertation makes a real, genuine contribution, and they think it should be published in its entirety for it to make the strongest statement.

Hopefully one day in the not too distant future I will be able to find an editor and reviewers who think my unique research voice needs to be heard.

Oh if only I knew what to do with the document!?

ONE: Hack it up to create a number of small articles and rewrite the lit reviews/theory so that it fits journals that exist? Yuck.

TWO: Hack it up to create a couple of articles with really brief lit reviews that retain the theory but wait to make a statement later? How boring.

THREE: Figure I won't get a T-T where I actually want to live and focus on writing a book instead that way I will be able to make the statement I want to make? That seems risky and I don't know the first thing about book publishing either.

I think option two is the best choice of the 3. I can always write the book later and it will be much more interesting after I've done the additional studies I want to do! I just need to choose the journal(s).

Since you've read this far, I'll reward you by revealing the results of my study in a nutshell:
People perceive groomers (as opposed to non-grooming touchers and non-touchers) to be better parents, more caring, more in love with the person they groom, and more committed to them.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Weekend

My family has a tendency to ask me what I did on holiday weekends, especially religious ones, as if I am supposed to be doing something special. This time, I think I actually did something worthwhile, i.e. I didn't have my fingers glued to my laptop. While I do have slides to finish for my dissertation defense on Thurs, I chose to goof off instead of finishing my work. I went to church.

Ha ha ha. Just kidding. Not in a million years. It's not that I'm not a spiritual person, I just don't need organized religion to remind me to be a kind and decent human being.

I have ALL DAY to kill tomorrow just trying to get from Walla Walla to Portsmouth; I think I will have plenty of time to make last minute improvements to my slides. I call this justifiable procrastination. I emailed myself my slides - three or four different accounts - just in case. You never know when something might go wrong.

I have had 3 defense anxiety dreams - all over equipment not working! The first was my old Audi - it struggled to get up an imaginary hill on the way from the airport to the university. Then it was some other thing that broke - a different car maybe. The latest was Katy chewing up my laptop.

Here's what happened over the weekend when she had to be penned in the kitchen again so we could leave. She is standing on top of Max's kennel, who is inside trying in vain to scratch his way out.

Goofing off on a holiday weekend for me means gardening (two blisters worth of digging), starting a new pastel for my primate series (a "cheek padder" adult male orangutan), pigging out on high-end junk food (Vietnamese fried calamari, creme brulee, and $8 martinis from Whitehouse-Crawford, the swankiest place in town), and then burning off the calories on a couple of marathon dog walks.

The two raised planter beds Sleyed made will look pretty once the plants grow in. I wanted them to rest smack in the middle of the backyard where all of the best grass was growing so he dug up the grass and I layed down our makeshift sod in the brown patches in our yard. That was how I earned my blisters. One poped, so needless to say, washing the dirt out of my hands was unpleasant.

I started the beds with seedlings that I grew indoors along with an Spanish lavendar plant I found at the Home Despot. 7 seedlings cluster near the lavendar - they are also English lavendar. I collected the seeds from a parent plant down the street.

The rest of that bed has about 30 seedlings that were growing in a tiny yogurt container on my window sill. I forget what the seeds are, but they grew well and I have a lot of them. It was fun to transplant seedlings because of the incredibly delicate work needed to untangled the tiny root systems.

I also put down seeds in all of my containers (foxglove, trumpet vine, snapdragon), smooshed some seeds for trees in the ground (Catalpa and Koelreuteria), and put some seeds into the ground that I gathered from my gladiolus.

I can't remember the last time I had so much dirt under my nails.

When I had finished I walked back inside, kicked my sandals off at the door, and grabbed a 40 oz beer from the fridge. It wasn't Old English -that would be too redneck - but it was certifiably crappy beer - the cheapest I could find.

Good drinking for the slugs.

I filled several yogurt lids with the beer and then went back inside to clean up. What did I find? Miss Roughenhausen with a face full of TV remote control. Yep, she chewed the brand new one, but I discovered her naughtiness in time to save the remote. It has visible teeth marks, but it still works. She whined and cried to go out so we headed out. She must have remembered the lids full of beer from last spring, though I had clearly forgotten her fondness for beer because she headed straight for them and before I knew exactly what she was doing, Katy slurped up most of it. That huge tongue can make beer disappear in two licks. She's soooo country.

And now - the wind is blowing all of my seeds to who knows where - 30 miles per hour with gusts to 40 mph the news says. Fantastic - the expensive new manure dirt - will be gone too.

Worrying about the condition of my garden is WAAAAAY better than worrying about my upcoming dissertation defense.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Temporary Peace Treaty Between Rivals

The deal I brokered was short lived, but I think this shows measurable progress toward a more harmonious co-existence between the Prince of Piss & Vinegar and the Baroness von Roughenhausen.

Bet you can guess who got up and left first.

*** This just in: Giant Comfort Hound just flopped down again on the pillow next to Mr. Piss, and he did not get up. Wow. This is a truly historic event. They are both snoozing now. Amazing. I might actually be able to get the rest of my defense slides done without having to stop to run interference!

*** Ah, dang, after 2 minutes of that Miss Newfy must have decided it was just too much. She moved on to her prefered spot by the back door. At least little Mr. stood his ground. They are his pillows after all :=)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Health Orbit News

My junk mailbox has been delivering news from an oufit called HealthOrbit, Inc. I have no idea why it started showing up but occassionally I read it and every once in a while discover some story worth following up.
Today I found three:

Apparently some researchers at the University of Michigan are starting clinical trials of rosiglitazone, a diabetes drug, for the treatment of endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronic, incurable condition that is associated with pain and infertility. It occurs when the lining of the uterus, the endomtrium, grows outside of the uterus. All of the current treatments for endometriosis render a woman infertile. The researchers hope the drug will shrink endometrial growths and reduce pain without causing infertility.
Read the Health Orbit brief here.

Autoimmune Disorders
A particular cytokine (molecule that recruits T & B cells of the immune system) called TSLB plays the key role in the runaway immune attack characteristic of autoimmune disorders like lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis - and allergies. Controlling it maybe the key to mimizing the damage the immune system does in these conditions. Read the Health Orbit brief here.

The Brain's Braking System
The Journal of Neuroscience published an MRI study of a "high speed connection" in the human brain that controls our ability to start and stop actions. Disruption of this "braking system" may be responsible for numerous diseases - among them Parkinson's and obsessive compulsive disorders.

Parkinson's symptoms include an inability to move, but also includes an inability to control motion smoothly. Actions become jerky and shaky. Although no doubt an overly simplistic view, I think one could think of the braking system being stuck in the ON position at times in conditions like Parkinson's that are characterized by frozen motion.

However for OCDs like Tourette's that are characterized by behavior and thoughts that cannot be stopped, the braking system might be stuck in the OFF position at time. The brakes simply fail to stop the action. But with OCDs, the brakes don't fail for all actions across the board. With OCDs only some actions are uncontrollable, famously those involving grooming actions (like handwashing); other behaviors are completely controllable. It would be interesting to know which connections are faulty for particular OCD symptoms.
Read the Health Orbit brief here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

My First Pastel - A Mandrill

This morning I made my first image with pastels - an 11 x 14 inch mandrill.

I've posted the scans I made of the work in progress because I think they look cool. The whole thing took about 5-6 hours with breaks. Next time I think I could save a lot of time by laying down a watercolor wash for the background before using the pastels.

I love pastels; it felt like painting. I had to remember to wash my hands after smudging before moving on to another color zone. Like watercolors, pastels are very forgiving. In time I plan to make a monkey series; I'm aiming for 12.

This afternoon Sleyed and I toured for-sale houses. We found several that had potential studios. One, maybe two, had enough space for a separate his & hers studios. Weaving on one wing and paper arts on the other! Trouble is, I won't be offered a position soon enough and we won't be able to sell our house soon enough to get the one we both liked the most. Someone else is sure to snap it up first. It's in the right neighborhood, the right size, has all new up-dated interior, nice landscaping, and a yard large enough to start a flower and flowering tree nursery. And, it's about $20,000 under-priced. Crazy.

Oh and a while back I blogged about how happy I was to find a replacement Le Petit Prince "book on tape." This morning while making my mandrill I listened to it and found out that the 60 minute recording included excerpts from The Little Prince and other St. X stories like Night Flight. Humpf! The entire thing was in French, which is what I wanted, but I did not want any other St. X stuff. My attention wandered so I'm not sure how the Little Prince portion ended; I'm not sure whether he actually died. I do remember the little guy meeting Le Renard, so at least one of my favorite encounters is in there. I will have to listen to it again. My French is not what it used to be.

Tomorrow I am going to attempt to boil my dissertation down to a 20 minute talk. I will not be listening to a book on tape in French in the background! While I find it slightly intimidating to narrow my defense talk down so much, I will just adopt the strategy I use for conference presentations and set it up more or less like one of my HBES talks. I like putting presentations together, so that helps! My defense is a week from this Thursday.

I think I will do another monkey pastel the day after and listen to my first Japanese lesson while I do it. I have got to get started with them. There are thirty 30 min lessons and I want to have all of them under my belt before I leave. I still have aboout 2 months but I know I will need to repeat lessons. That was my experience with Arabic so I assume Japanese will be the same. I still need to shop around for a good work book so I can learn to read and write a little. I really like being able to write.