Worm Salad

November 30, 2008, 8:54 am
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Obviously I haven’t been blogging in a while — the holiday weekend this year was particularly eventful and didn’t leave me any time to really get anything done. My fiance came over to visit, which was great, since he currently lives in Illinois, and I do miss him terribly. Mostly we rested, relaxed and used every single dish in my apartment while experimenting with food. I re-discovered my addiction to the game Spore, and Jason and I spent some time recreating ancient amphibians and idealized models of our favorite animals with the game. It was a good week.

However, the point of Thanksgiving really is to remember those things which we are thankful for, and while I am not really enamoured of the holiday spirit, thankfulness is a good and healthy thing. It allows up to step back from the mundane, niggling worries of our lives and really focus on the good things.

So, with that in mind … here is what I am thankful for this year.

  1. My family, especially my mother. We had a huge falling out last year, that has just begun to patch up, and it has allowed me to look at her in a completely new light, and recognize self-sacrifice and kindness in her that I did not see before (even if we still disagree about everything).
  2. My fiance, for being wonderful.
  3. My lab and the professors in my department who have been helping me with my research project. The amount of support and encouragement that I have gotten to tackle a snarly question have been pretty amazing, and I am feeling more confident than ever that I will get the grant money and data that I need.
  4. Stargate. My friend Meg just started watching SG-1, and her fangirling about it made me want to rewatch the entire series. The show is an amazing work of awesome, silly escapist drama, and it’s one of my regular guilty pleasures.
  5. Books, of all kinds, shapes and sizes. I admit that right now my reading list is pretty significantly reduced, what with school and projects and everything, but I am reading in most of my free time (when I am not playing Spore). Right now, I am on a fantasy kick: I just finished reading The Secret History of Moscow, which is a lovely, brooding story that makes use of some atypical, but wonderful mythological elements and have just started re-reading an old favorite: Diane Duane’s So You Want to be a Wizard, which is probably one of my favorite books in the world. Even though it’s marketed to the YA crowd, the imagery in the book is incredible, and I would recommend it to anyone.
  6. Snow! It snowed here last night. Soon enough, I will be able to go skiing and snowshoeing. I can’t wait.

So, what are you thankful for?


November 20, 2008, 6:42 pm
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Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  I have a whole passion and slurry of emotion and things that I want to say, but I would just ask that you remember the thirty men and women who died this year as a result of violence directed against transgender persons.

The case that is closest to home for me, both literally and figuratively, is that of Angie Zapata, who was brutally beaten to death in Greeley, Colorado. Her murderer’s defense team is currently pushing for his charges to be lowered from hate-crime and murder, on the basis that a ‘tranny scare’ is a legitimately distressing event that could trigger a crime of passion, and validating her murderer’s claim that he “killed it.”

In this case, there is exactly one person who deserves the dehumanization and degradation that the pronoun “it” implies, and that is the person who would beat a vibrant, beautiful young woman to death because she was born with the wrong set of genitalia.

Please take a moment to remember our dead today, especially the transgendered women of color who have been so disproportionately affected by the violence plaguing our community.

Oy vey…
November 11, 2008, 6:42 pm
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… I need to learn not to promise posts because when I do, my life invariably conspires to spring a hundred surprises on me. So, while I will get to a science post soon, it will probably be a little later this week (and obviously, I didn’t make it by Sunday).

However, I do have news — I have a new family member. Yesterday, I brought in a baby leopard gecko who was abandoned at a local pet store. He is pretty frail, but looks to be a trooper, and is curently in a quarrantine cage in my living room, where he is exploring his new space, establishing dominance over his territory and hiding whenever I go to check on him.

He’s too young to have gotten his spots, but is a beautiful bright yellow and dark brown gecko — I am betting that he will be a beautiful, high-contrast animal when he grows up. I will hopefully get up photos of him tonight — so check back for updates later today.

He is the second lizard and eleventh reptile to be sharing my house (the other nine are snakes); he’s also my eighth rescue reptile, and I hope that he does well. Reptile rescue is always a bit of a harrying, worrying process for me, since there are really no good guarantees on the health of rescued herps — I’ve seen a lot of problematic health conditions in my rescues — especially parasites, from mites to pinworms, and I’m particularly concerned about the risk of cryptosporidium associated with bringing in a gecko — but, I’ve also had rescues who have shown perfect health and have gone on to make great recoveries and live, long fulfilling lives: my oldest, best-loved snake was a rescue, as are some of my most interesting herps, from a Dumeril’s boa to a pair of remarkable green tree pythons.

The long and the short of it is that I am happy to be bringing him in and giving him a second chance at life. He’s a very handsome boy, and once he gets some weight on and his health clears, I am sure that he will be a great addition to my family.

Now I just need to think of a name for him — any ideas?

Just a quick hit…
November 8, 2008, 7:32 pm
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… since I’m at work. Either tonight or tomorrow, I will have a great big, fun, sciency post for you guys, since that’s actually what I do with most of my life. But, until then, I’d just like to give a big shout-out to Scotland’s This is Not an Invtation to Rape Me campaign, which is fantastic. It tackles the myths of ‘she was asking for it’ head-on, and places the blame for rape squarely where it belongs — on the perpetrators. Coupled with some good statistics and resources, this is one of the best anti-rape campaigns I’ve ever seen. I’d love to see more of these types of campaigns, instead of the ‘safety’ campaigns that I see so often in the States, where, instead of confronting rapists head-on, the focus is on telling women what privileges they shouldn’t take for granted — even with the best of intentions, there’s a certain amount of victim blaming that goes on. Scotland’s campaign is fantastic because it respects the fundamental rights of women to go out, wear what they want, and even get into relationships without forfeiting the ultimate rights to their bodies.

In other words — great job!

Barack Obama, President Elect
November 5, 2008, 5:16 am
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Barack Obama is the president-elect of the United States, and will come into power, in all probability, heading up a strongly democratic house and Senate. While I can’t hope but see this as a change for the better, there are certainly parts and parcels of Obama’s policies which I can’t help but disagree with. Here’s what I’d really like to see from the new Presidential administration.

  1. Better positions on LGBTQ rights. Obama’s been incredibly reserved on subjects of gay rights. We need federal anti-discrimination laws that cover gender expression on top of sexual orientation. We need better federal health guidelines on the proper treatment of intersex children. We need to repeal DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We need federal laws that will extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples who want them, and we need a federal administration that will combat the wave of anti-gay constitutional amendments and legislation that has become a  part of the constitutions of many states tonight.
  2. Better women’s rights. We need better sex education that not only teaches young women how to protect themselves, but one that teaches young men not to rape. We need better standards for sex education in general, and better, safer access to abortion throughout the country. We need a better health care system; one that doesn’t unfairly penalize women for being more likely to seek life-saving preventative health care, and we need better schools, preschools and day cares to maximize the opportunities of working mothers.
  3. Better science funding. Obama’s proposals on science funding are highly oriented towards “goal-directed” science, rather than basic research. There’s nothing wrong with goal-directed research, but especially in the biological sciences, basic research is still fundamental, critical, underfunded, and, of course, the birthplace of all of our current innovation. We need to promote, not penalize science.
  4. Better education. No Child Left Behind was an unparalleled educational disaster. We need more focus on both promoting excellence and on helping underperforming children to achieve. Teacher salaries need to be increased, educational standards need to be standardized across states, and more money needs to be diverted into underperforming schools, especially into innovative programs that are focused on the needs and rights of children. We need to be spending much, much more money in the arts, and in extracurricular programs.
  5. Better foreign policy. Our foreign policy is, currently a disaster. We need to ratify Kyoto, and need to sign international declarations of human rights. We need to improve our own image and standing within the world. We need to withdraw from Iraq, end highly problematic trade agreements, like NAFTA, and begin to forge diplomatic relationships, especially in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America. We need to fight terrorism with ideas, not weapons.

What do you want to see from Obama’s next four years?

I must offer my apologies…
November 4, 2008, 5:54 am
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… for not blogging this weekend. I was at the Field Museum, collecting morphometrics data on crocodilians (and also went down to the St. Louis zoo, where they have Tomistoma!)

I will make it up to you tomorrow.