Category Archives: Thoughts

Overheard on the Trolley Ride Home

A mentally ill janitor:

Wow! Look at you! Look at how beautiful you are! And you! You are beautiful! And…oh my goodness! YOU are such a beautiful woman! And all these couples! So many perfect, beautiful couples! Look at how beautiful you all are! This has been a perfect day! And the Phillies will win the World Series!

And later:

People, listen to me! If you do not have joy in your life..make joy! Make joy! I truly believe in this, I am a very Christian man.

I think he would be very happy to know that after leaving the trolley, I was indeed full of happiness. Honestly and truly.

Footnote – aside from these proclomations, the man tried to engage the woman sitting next to him in conversation, but she seemed absolutely repulsed by him, and refused to even make eye contact with him. She was on her way to the nail salon.


Designing a Scientific Poster

In August, I’ll be heading to Milwaukee to present the research I did in Australia at the Ecological Society of America’s annual conference. Perhaps because I’m a foolish and naive young academic, I’m incredibly excited about this conference, and the idea of being surrounded by hundreds of other people with similar interests, and new knowledge to present within those interests, has me really stoked. And it’s not just presentations, there’s workshops and field trips, and I want to attend every single one! Of course, that’s not possible for both financial and temporal reasons, but it shows how excited I am.

I’m presenting my research in the form of a poster, so I’m currently working on designing it. I already made one in Australia, but Australian scientific posters are very different from American ones. The Australians prefer extremely concise posters, with large amounts of empty space for important images, and a concise take-home message. Here’s the poster I made for my research, in the Australian style: Continue reading

The Future of Voucher Specimens

Kannan, R. 2007. New bird descriptions without proper voucher specimens: reflections after the Bugun Liocichla case. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 104: 12-18.

This story begins with the discovery of the Bugun Liocichla, a spectacular but possibly rare bird discovered recently in India. The formal description of the bird stirred up a lot of controvery, as no type specimen was sent to a museum or examination, as is the formal procedure. Rather, the authors decided to take photographs and feather samples, as they believed that the species was too rare to allow for the taking of an individual. This raises some important questions about the current state of museum specimens, and whether they remain relevant in biology today, and if traditional practices are conservationally unadvised. Continue reading

Overheard at the Bubble House

Some stoned philosopher, rambling endlessly one table over:

I am the sum of all my lovers.

I am light. I believe in God, yes.

You have as much potential for growth as I have ability to make a PDF document.

What am I gonna do, form a charity of sperm capitalism?

Spring Migration Timing

Currently re-reading Scott Weidensaul’s Living on the Wind, a personal account of bird migration in the Americas, while studying how and why birds migrate, and what the future of migratory bird conversation looks like. In high school, it was one of my favorite books, as it combined both my scientific fascination of birds along with my more personal connection to birds and their environments. There’s a lot of really scientifically interesting stuff on the mechanisms of bird migration, but there’s also some really emotional stuff about the death of thousands of Swainson’s Hawks due to insecticides in Argentina, for instance.

Re-reading it now, it’s not quite as good as I remembered. The book doesn’t have a clear narrative arc, which I’m fine with, but it also doesn’t do the ‘sprawling New Yorker style’ that McPhee does so well, and that I’ve been reading so much of lately. Instead, there really doesn’t seem to be much of a structure at all, and feels like facts and stories haphazardly thrown together. There are probably better ways to structure this book.

Anyways, one small factoid caught my attention as I was reading the second chapter. It was mentioned that birds know when to migrate based primarily on two factors: genetic predisposition, and photoperiod (length of daylight). Continue reading

The End of Harry Potter: Predictions

Disclaimer: Obviously, I haven’t read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet, so what follows are some predictions I’m making on what will happen. I correctly predicted the ending for book 6, so who knows, maybe my strategies and hunches will work again. That said, if you want a clean slate heading into your reading, avoid this post. But if you’re curious and speculative like me, I’d love some feedback. Again, what follows are just predictions, reader discretion advised, so I’m not responsible for totally ruining your appreciation.

I knew Dumbledore was going to die in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince once I took a look at the prominent place he had on the book’s cover. Off the top of my head, every other book in the series features Harry alone, and so Dumbledore’s presence told me that his place was going to be prominent, and given the book’s tone and place in the series, the only logical conclusion would be that he wouldn’t make it to the end. And that turned out to be correct. Continue reading

Coming Around on Animal Collective

Photo by feinsteinphotos

The hipster adoration of the band Animal Collective used to completely mystify me. What was so extraordinary about ten minute songs full of moaning and the occasional tribal drums? At least, that was the impression I got during my background listening of Feels, the one song I heard off Sung Tongs, and the completely uninformative and bizarre Pitchfork review for Here Comes the Indian, which undoubtedly goes into the annals of worst reviews ever.

But I’ve been coming around on them recently. It all started with the new Panda Bear album Person Pitch (PB is a member of AC, for those who weren’t aware). The album seems to be the frontrunner for Hipinion’s album of the year, and a few of my trusted friends and colleagues gave the album high praise too, so a few weeks ago I decided to revisit it. My first listen, in the wake of Pitchfork’s laudatory Best New Music labeling, was not a good listen, as I never got past the first track ‘Comfy in Nautica’. Continue reading