Friday, June 27, 2008
1) "Parents without the Internet should have their children taken away." -Peggy Hill
2) "Support Hardy-Weinberg; practice random mating." -t-shirt at the Evolution conference
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Back from Minneapolis, home for two days, on the road tomorrow. Still not sure which way I'm heading first; today's task is figuring that out!
Evolution meeting was great. Phylogeography is the trendy topic these days so lots of talks on that, and I took copious notes on software and analysis methods. I saw so many phylogeo talks that eventually I stopped going to them because I wasn't learning anything new. I presented my poster on Sunday and had some nice conversations with people about my project. It wasn't the most exciting poster there but it also wasn't the worst, and the pretty green background worked well. I had the misfortune of being sandwiched between vampire bats and something impressive-looking with circumpolar birds, and my poor poster sometimes was hidden by overflowing crowds. Next year I'll have so much more to say about my project - I'm excited but I'm sure I'll have to do a talk instead of a poster... *eek*
I went through the same stages that I go through at every conference. The first day or two, I'm excited about my research and I feel confident and capable and just as brilliant as everyone else. Then the unworthiness and panic set in and by the end of the conference I'm convinced I'm in the wrong field, my project is subpar in several ways, and I'm not smart enough to properly analyze the data that I generate. I kind of wish those two stages would switch around. Instead of returning home feeling motivated and excited, I feel terrified and inept. Luckily I'm on my way to do more collecting; that at least is something I know how to do.
On the way to the 'L' yesterday morning:
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
This is a pretty accurate representation of what my dissertation looks like right now.
Encounters with men
1) I was witnessed to (at?) on the Halsted train platform yesterday. I stood leaning against a pillar, reading The Civil War and minding my own business, when a very tall, tanned, respectable looking young man loomed in on my left. He politely said he had noticed me reading a book and wondered if he could share something with me. Alarm bells went off but I didn't want to be rude so I said okay, and he opened his little black bible and read a verse to me. (I just hunted for it; it was Ecclesiastes 12:12: And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.) I knew where that line of reasoning was headed but he didn't take it there. He just wanted to quote-mine that verse and apply it to the modern world and its endless barrage of websites and books offering conflicting advice to a bewildered people, which I couldn't argue with. Then his train arrived and he thanked me kindly for letting him share his thoughts with me, told me he was a witness for Jehovah (big surprise!!), and went away.
2) As I walked by the old post office this morning, a man in a parked car said something that sounded like "God damn. Nice breast." The last word was very clearly enunciated and was most definitely not plural. I ignored him but felt vaguely offended on behalf of the slighted breast, whichever one it was.
Despite the general weirdness, it's good to be home. I'm reminded of the Far Side with the bears on vacation, standing on a busy city sidewalk and commenting on how they can really feel themselves unwind. It's all in what you're used to. I can't wait until my road trips are done and I can stay home for good.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Headline in the UIC News today: Hot Flashes Underreported and Linked to Forgetfulness
I meant to report the hot flash I had last night, but I quite understandably forgot.
Leaving for Minneapolis in three days for the Evolution conference. The conference program mentions nearby Minnehaha Park as a place to visit, and says it has basswood. Noooo, don't tell me there's basswood or I'll be compelled to go get some!! My poster has been sent to the printer; now I just need to brush up on the content so my brain is fully charged and ready to interact with my fascinated and curious public. The final bunches of permits are coming in, except the ones where the issuers have gone mysteriously silent on me, and the national park that is being VERY fussy about the existence of their frozen leaves in our freezer. It's tempting to say I won't bother with national parks anymore but a certain other park was so incredibly helpful that it would be a shame if I'd missed working with them. They even offered me housing!
I was going to do some DNA extractions today but since there are rumors afoot of a 96-sample homogenizer in the works, dragging out the old mortar and pestle seems kind of inefficient. So perhaps I will have an Intellectual Day instead and do some reading. It's been a while since I've stretched my brain.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Home for now
Wild boars in Georgia - grunt grunt
I finished all the sites I could legally or logistically collect in the first trip and skedaddled home, making it from Greensboro, NC to Chicago in about 13 hours and arriving home last night. Of course woke up in the middle of the night not knowing where I was but convinced I was in the woods and in danger somehow. About the time those dreams fade, I'll have to go back out. Oh joy.
Checklist at the more or less halfway point:
Sites visited: 10
Leaves collected: not sure yet; ~100?
Miles driven: 4940
Insect bites: 15-20 that I'm very aware of
Tick bites: 5 (UGH!!)
Exceedingly tanned arms: 2
Fast food meals eaten: about 12
Dunkin Donuts iced coffees consumed: 1 (but only because DDs are hard to come by)
Weight: N-2 (woo!)
Max temp: 102 (South Carolina)
Prettiest state seen: North Carolina
Cubs record: 41-24 (still best in baseball! woo!)
Number of Democrat candidates for President: 1 (woo!)
I was chased around the car in South Carolina for a while by a very jumpy spider. Every time I stopped, it leaped onto the passenger window triumphantly. Every time I tried to usher it out of the car, it vanished under the seats. The driving was very tense because I was painfully aware that there was a spastic spider lurking below me. Eventually I convinced it to terrorize a hotel parking lot instead of my car. I didn't kill it, which probably means now I've transported some horrible invasive pest dozens of miles from its native habitat and destroyed an ecosystem. Oopsy.
In West Virginia, which is having its outbreak of 17-year cicadas right now, mere minutes after laughing to myself that it would be funny if a cicada flew into the car, a cicada smacked into the door frame right next to my head, exploded cicada guts all over me, and landed in two halves in my lap while I zoomed down the road at 70 mph. I made an appropriate comment which was probably something like "AAAAIEEE!", mopped off my face with my sleeve and gingerly tossed the two bug-halves out the window, then got out at the next rest stop to scrub dried guts off the car interior. I drove with the windows up after that.
Took today off to do laundry and veg out and remind the dog who I am. Tomorrow, back to work. I'm home until the 20th though I may do a couple of short trips as long as I'm in the midwest. Remainder of pictures to go up later on. Right now I have calamine lotion to apply.
ETA: photo link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bintie/sets/72157605437297532/
Friday, June 06, 2008
It's not my fault - the map said there was camping
Staying at a hotel is a guilty pleasure. It's so nice to be able to do useful things after sunset, to go to bed without first constructing a bed out of raw materials, to have an air conditioner and a shower. Is it worth paying 5 times the price? Throw in internet access and perhaps yes. But tonight the only reason I'm at a hotel (Madison, Florida - I've never heard of it either) is that the national forest campground near Tallahassee turned out not to exist. The nice lady who runs the gatehouse talked my ear off for a good long time, telling me a story about crazy "herpologists" who do primitive camping in the forest and look for snakes. I told her that I myself am a crazy botanist looking for trees, and she said all God's creatures are beautiful and I was glad I chose botanist instead of evolutionary biologist this time. Then she told me another story about a guy who killed a woman right there in that forest and she later recognized him on the news as someone she'd chatted with and who had done various (in retrospect) suspicious things. The end result of this story was, no way was I primitive camping in that forest tonight, thank you very much. The next closest campground was more than an hour away, the sun was fading, and worried hubby advised a hotel so here I am. I again am vastly amused by cadging a hotel's free wireless signal and using it to search for cheaper hotels in the area.
Had good success today along the Chattahoochee River, although I was mystified by the decision to make various parks either free or not free and I refused to visit not-free parks. If I were boating or whatever, fine, but I'm not paying to walk around for ten minutes and find out there are no basswood trees. Luckily, the free parks worked out okay.
Mississippi was generally lovely, Alabama was mostly less so. Alabama actually looks an awful lot like southern Michigan except with cattle ranches instead of cornfields. The state seems to suffer from an excess of privately owned land, however. There are whole swaths of the state with no parks at all.
The thermometer reached 99 degrees today. I think I would have to shave my head if I lived here.
Saw catfish farms in Alabama, pecan groves in Georgia. I have seen approximately 1 zillion Baptist churches. Sometimes they are sweet little 150 year old white buildings nestled into the grass; sometimes they are multi-million dollar Mega Complexes. One in Louisiana had a sign with a rather graphic depiction of a crucified Christ and the legend "This blood's for you!" Very tasteful.
Tomorrow hopefully I will do my Gainesville site and turn northwards toward the next site and joyously, eventually, toward home.
A few more pics are up:
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
O, blessed, blessed Internet access, how I adore thee.
I sit in a hotel room in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The goal is to finish the draft of the poster tonight in air conditioned comfort. It is hot and sticky here. I'm all damp and drippy and gasping for air, while everyone else looks totally comfortable or maybe occasionally fans themselves and says "Woo!" I easily "borrowed" wireless access in the parking lot, looked up cheap hotels online, and decided that the one where I was lurking was affordable enough. Of course when I checked in and tried to access the wireless legitimately, it wouldn't let me connect. Luckily, the nav system in the car told me where to find an OfficeMax and an ethernet cable, and 20 minutes later I was up and running. I adore my nav system. The sweaty leather seats I could do without.
I read the news earlier today that Obama has claimed the nomination semi-officially. I'm filled with hometown pride and wear my orange Illinois hat (and Illinois license plate, and Illinois accent) for all to see. Not that anyone here knows that Chicago is in Illinois. (I'm not kidding, either.)
The memory card in my camera became defective and I lost two days of pictures, so just imagine to yourself that Missouri and Arkansas were really gorgeous and hilly, lots of grass and oak trees and cattle. The area around Springfield MO was about as pretty as I've seen anywhere. In Arkansas I saw my first chicken... farms? plants? What is the correct term for acres of sheet-metal buildings with fans set into the walls and a Tyson sign out front? Chicken plants smell BAD and make me very sad. At least the cattle get to enjoy a short life of ambling around, eating grass, watching traffic. The chicken thing is just depressing.
I also saw my first paper mills. They also smell bad, like sour cabbage.
I drove very briefly into Texas at Texarkana. Down the main street, on the west side you're in Texas and on the east you're in Arkansas. Some sort of city hall or courthouse straddles the border. Campaign signs for an upcoming election featured men named Jimmy Bob who wore cowboy hats. It's a different world, I tell you what.
I have collected four populations of basswood so far, in Nebraska, Missouri, and twice in Arkansas. I struck out in Louisiana, which probably accounts for my general resentment towards that state. There is only so long I'm willing to drive aimlessly; I will try to find an expert later who can ship me some samples. I have to say that other than certain populations having white undersides on the leaves, I'm not seeing much difference between "species".
I am heading north tomorrow to look for trees in the loess hills, an intriguing landform of lumpy bluffs facing the Mississippi River floodplain. I have reason to believe that I'll be successful, and then I head east to Alabama. I'm making good time and am more or less enjoying myself. Now if only I can get this poster done!
The flickr set for this trip so far is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bintie/sets/72157605437297532/