Monday, November 27, 2006

You Have Derailed.

Today, we slogged into class, trying to escape the lingering effects of tryptophan, fighting to overcome the holiday food-hangover. This afternoon, I had to give a short, 10-minute presentation to my evolutionary bio class. I wasn't alone in this; everyone had to present. Topics were all vaguely related to evolution. Some had a scientific bent, others quite contemporary stretches that attempted to throw in a little evolution.

Last week, my nemesis wouldn't shut the hell up during his talk. Honestly, his presentation lasted about 20 minutes; the time limit was, of course, 10. He just could not stop talking and wrap it up. Best of all, he's up there blabbering and blabbering about menopause. Twice as long as allowed, endlessly talking about the evolutionary aspects of menopause. Outstanding.

Today, I joked with him that I was going to talk for at least 30 minutes, just to beat his time. Unfortunately, I didn't know that one of our classmates actually had designs to do just that. One woman in our program has done tons of graduate work in Women's Studies. (Much to our chagrin, she's frequently pointing this out. ) She's the self-anointed keeper of all things related to feminism, of being "liberal," and of trying to be shocking by speaking frankly about sex. All of this makes for very, very entertaining and slightly annoying viewing. Often, though, she's so wrapped up in looking for deeper meanings in things that she misses the picture because she never takes off the "Women's Studies" hat. Never. Hell, even Freud said that, sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

Today, she presented on a book titled The Woman Who Didn't Evolve. Although I can't recall her name, the author wrote it in the late 1970's and, from what I understood, made some reasonable arguments about why females were absent from the scientific discussion of evolution. Unfortunately, none of the reasoning came through in this presentation.

My classmate has a tendency to stray off topic quite easily. For instance, instead of summarizing the book per our assignment, she basically turned it into a rambling indictment of gender descriptions in scientific publication, a half-assed lecture on sexual politics, and failed attempt to flex her intellect. Any credible information she was discussing was buried so deep in her caustic, wandering commentary, there is no way anybody understood a freakin' bit of what she was blathering on and on and on about. Jesus, by the end of her talk, I was almost on the table screaming "Girl Power" and burning a bra. It was supposed to be a book report on evolution, for the love of Pete.

No shit, she came off like any stereotypical "angry feminist" character. My favorite part of her talk came at about 20 minutes into it. (She took the record with a final time of 25 minutes.) She goes to the chalkboard, draws a vagina, identifies the clitoris, and draws three exclamation points. Then, she starts quoting "The Vagina Monologues." I sat there, not believing what I was watching, choking on my laughter, tears welling in my eyes. Today, my tuition was worth every stinking penny.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Road Trip

Last night, I dreamed that I was taking a cross-country road trip with Richard Pryor. He looked just like he did in the 1970's in his early buddy-pictures with Gene Wilder. Anywho, we cruised around in some big old car just hanging out and laughing. At one point, we stopped into his parent's place to pick up some of his things before heading toward California. His parents kept his room up just in case he dropped by for a visit. It was full of old, yellowed newspaper articles about him and various little trophies and awards.

So, if you're planning to dream about taking a long road-trip AND if you're still looking for a buddy to tag along, I recommend Richard Pryor.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Wrath of the Ginger

Evolutionary Biology Lab
Over the last few weeks, we've been watching a video about Charles Darwin's life and evolutionary discoveries. (Don't worry, I've made sure to show everyone the sticker on my textbook which clearly states that evolution is only a "theory.") Anywho, the acting in the video is a little hammy and overdone. On many occasions, I've rolled my eyes, chuckled, or moaned aloud at some of the overly dramatic scenes in the film.

Last week's segment included a few scenes in which Darwin's daughter died. Needless to say, this event was quite formative for him, pushing him away from Christianity. Earlier in his life, he was a theology student. After his voyage on the HMS Beagle, he began formulating and developing his theory of evolution and struggled to balance the prevalilng religious attitudes of the time with his scientific work. I digress.

To portray these events, the film shows Darwin taking his daughter to London for medical care. Later, the daughter is shown on her deathbed surrounded by Darwin and the nursemaid/nanny. The next scene might have been the most dramatically overacted, cliché that I've watched in some time.

Here's a description of the offending shot:
The camera moves toward the rain-streaked glass of a second-story window. As it approaches the window, it pans down into the courtyard. Torrential rain falls. Flashes of lightning illuminate the night sky. In the courtyard, on her knees, is the nursemaid. She's wailing and raising her clinched fists toward the heavens, screaming "Why?!?"
I have to tell you, it might have been one of the funniest things that I've seen on film in a long time. (This one seven-second shot was funnier than Nacho Libre.) So, this week before class, I'm discussing it with some of my post-bacc classmates. One woman mentioned that, although she new it was cheesy, she cried during the scene. The rest of us pretty much thought it was hilariously overdone.

It's at this point that a young undergrad woman in front of me, a ginger, turns around, glares at me, and says that "It not funny if you've ever lost someone." The she starts talking to her friends, evidently describing what a dick I am. Honestly, it was almost as overly-dramatic as the film scene I just described.

I love it when people who aren't privvy to an entire conversation butt in with some half-baked commentary. That the death of your child is utterly devestating and life-altering is not lost on me. Nor is lost my my ability to distinguish between a craptastic reenactment and an actual event that demands compassion.

Hair Island, The Secret's Out
Later in the week, our evolution professor was lecturing. We were discussing our evolutionary relatives, chimps and bonobos. He continues by saying that nobody is really sure why we, unlike chimps and bonobos, lost the coarse body hair. "Why do males still have coarse hair on their faces?," he asks, pointing to his own beard. "Why do some of us lose our hair as we get older?," he continues, gesturing at me. I wanted to look to see if he was pointing at someone else. Being one of two male students in the classroom, I knew he was pointing at my hair island.

A hair island is a small, isolated island of hair
created by the backward migration of the hairline.

I politely smiled. And gave him the finger.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Owl

I am the raven. Biology is the owl.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Random Thoughts

Fast and furious has been the pace. Apologies for the lack of posts. Here's a quick recap of some funny events of late:

My Wife's Birthday Dinner
To celebrate my wife's birthday, her family took us out to a great meal at Sushi Huku. (If you're a sushi fan, it's probably the best in Atlanta.) Anywho, my father-in-law isn't a big fan of sushi but was a really good sport. He was sitting next to me as I explained to my 7-year old nephew what the "green paste" on his plate was. I told him that it was called wasabi, which is really hot and spicy, and that he shouldn't eat it by itself but mix a little of it in his soy sauce and dip his sushi in it.
Not one minute later, my father-in-law makes a short, odd gasping sound before loudly telling everyone "Don't eat that green stuff, it is HOT!" I think his eyes were watering a little.

Orgo Grade
I made an "A" on my second organic chemistry exam. I'm not stupid, after all. Ahh, the sweet view from the peak that will soon be obscured by my trip to the valley.

Shortcuts in Lab
In one of my biology labs, we were separating DNA and doing an electrophoresis experiment. This involved making a slab of gelatin, injecting DNA into some little wells we made into the slab, submerging the entire thing in an electrolyte solution, and subjecting it to an electrical current. The applied current makes the DNA travel toward the positive pole. By staining the DNA afterwards and examining it, you can make inferences about the DNA based on how far it traveled across the gel.

This thing took forever to finish. At the end of the lab, you have to stain the gel with a carcinogenic solution and then look at it under UV light. Finally, you put it in a fancy photocopier, take a photo and print it for examination. Well, I figured that I'd skip the UV light step and just get right to the photo. My nemesis was behind me in line, jokingly complaining that I'd cut in front of him. I load the gel into the photo machine. Then, as fate would have it, the professor is unable to get an image to show up. She gets a little flustered and asks me what it looked like under the UV light. At this point, my nemesis starts saying that I didn't look at it. I elbowed him a little to shut him up, looked at the professor and said, "It looked crappy." My voice cracked and quickly faded to silence on the word 'crappy.' Science at it's finest. My nemesis was laughing. The prof was a little put out when she told me that I could use a photocopy of someone else's gel. I thanked her and stepped out of my nemesis' way. As I'm leaving the room, I see him hand the gel to the professor. She takes it from him, breaks it, and throws it away. As soon as it was in the waste bin, she realized that he wasn't done with it but, rather, needed to have it photographed. Classic.

That One Guy
My lab partner for organic chemistry is the guy who has a penchant for saying some inappropriate things at inappropriate times. The general consensus is that he doesn't mean anything bad by it but maybe his social filter just is a bit off. As I've learned over the last few months, he picked up some phrases in Iraq and likes to pepper his conversation with them. During casual conversation, he often replies to a simple question with an Arabic sounding word or phrase. Generally, the listener furrows her brow and asks "What does that mean?" which prompts an excited explanation from him. Well, by staying true to form, he earns my distinguished Uncomfortable Moment of the Month Award with this:

After lab, I'm chit-chatting with the prof, making small talk. Our professor is a dear, sweet, funny and charismatic woman who's also ridiculously brilliant. I ask her how she's feeling (she's been battling a persistent cold or something) and what costume her daughter was wearing for Halloween. During our conversation, my lab partner walks up and she notices that he looks a little run-down. She politely asks him how he's doing, how he's feeling.

He sighs a little and says something in poorly pronounced Arabic. So, he's dropped the word, beginning the dance. Our professor plays along and asks what it means. His explanation: "Bend over, here it comes again."

She gets this confused look, blinks here eyes a bunch, and tries to make sense of it. I mutter "My God, man," shake my head, and immediately walk away. As I'm leaving the room, out the door, I hear him offer this gem, "I'm sorry ma'am, I was in the military."